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interesting article

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Volume Two . Issue Two Memory Lane

This summer Dallas Cowboy coach, Barry Switzer, was arrested for carrying a handgun into an airport. While everyone else in Dallas was asking, "How could anyone be so stupid?", I recalled a day in 1982 in Knoxville, Tennessee when a similar incident almost got me arrested. The charge-conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States.

The company I was working for was hired to program and install an elaborate multi-media exhibit at the World's Fair in Knoxville. The multi-roomed, walk-through, multi-sensory experience was called "The Power" and was sponsored by a Christian group that included Catholics and all major Protestant denominations except the Baptists, who chose to have their own booth.

Two weeks prior to President Reagan officially opening the fair, workers were busily finishing up elaborate exhibits for countries from around the world. Multiple worker entry points and worker IDs made coming and going easy for all. Our client, in their quest to be good stewards of God's dollars, provided us a cabin in the hills some thirty miles outside Knoxville and a Rent-a-Wreck (the name says it all) to make our commute possible.

The first week all went well, but the producer needed more time to finish the software than God needed to create the world. Three days before the fair was to open I was left with one technician, we'll call him Larry, to finish the job. We worked feverishly for over seventy non horizontal hours completing what was now clearly in God's hands. Finally as the clock struck midnight the night before the fair was to open, we had ourselves a most impressive, soul convicting exhibit ready for a steady stream of fair going, God needing families.

Larry and I headed for our Rent-a-Wreck, which had remained idle for three days. Our only thoughts were of getting to our cabin, sleeping for a few hours, taking a shower, coming back to the fair to make sure everything went well the first day and then flying back to Dallas by night's end. The Rent-a-Wreck would not start. We dragged our sleepless bodies to a Holiday Inn a few blocks down the road and hailed a taxi to take us to the cabin. We contracted the same taxi to pick us up at 8 a.m. knowing no one else would ever find this mountain hideaway.

A few short hours later with suitcases in hand we loaded in the cab and joined a steady stream of traffic heading to the fair. What a difference a day makes. The fair grounds had been transformed. All service entrances were closed. The sound of tractors and drills had been replaced with the overlapping melodies of different culture's music. Blue collar workers had given way to families of four or more. Only the main gate was accessible. Here families and workers alike stood in line to go through security and metal detectors before gaining entrance to the fairground and the opportunity of hearing President Reagan officially open the fair. Purses and diaper bags were scanned if not gone through. As we put our suitcases on the conveyor belt, Larry whispered to me, "Do you think I should tell them I have a gun in there?" As I registered what he was asking and stuttered to form the word "yes", he and I were grabbed by security agents and slammed against a fence. As children skipped by saying, "Look at those bad guys, Mommy," Larry began to explain that his ex-wife had given him the gun as a present and he had forgotten about it. This was all news to me. I struggled to control myself when Larry asked the secret service agent what time Reagan was going to speak because he sure wanted to see him.

After hours of explanation to way too many lawmen, Larry was taken downtown and eventually booked for carrying a gun within so many feet of a place that served liquor instead of attempting to assassinate the President of the United States and I was reluctantly let go as harmless. (I'm sure I'm still in some computer as a possible conspirator.)

Our clients said a prayer, passed the hat and Larry made bail. We completed the day's work, but now far behind schedule we worked through the night and went to the airport early the next morning. As we awaited our plane, I scanned the local newspaper and noticed the headline, "Dallas Man with Gun Arrested at Fair." As I read the retelling of our miserable experience, I chuckled at the last line.

". . . he was working on an exhibit for the Baptists."

--Steve Alford

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