November 15, 2009

People empty their pockets

  As a rookie cop fresh out of the police academy in Washington, D.C., I’m given an unusual assignment. I’m placed on a security detail for a public event at Washington, D.C.’s National Guard Armory on a Sunday afternoon. The year is 1952.
  Why on earth does the armory need a security detail while some guy talks on a Sunday afternoon? I’d soon find out. There are about ten of us, mostly rookies, at the armory this afternoon. The auditorium fills up quickly to standing room only.
  I’m thinking, “This guy must be pretty good.” Turns out he was. He has a way of speaking that makes people pay attention and want to hear more. And there’s singing -- lots of really good singing.
  The sergeant comes around once while I’m enthralled by the speaker and taps me on the shoulder, “Heads up, officer, remember why you’re here.”
  Then a platoon of ushers passes plates around throughout the audience. That’s when I realized why cops are assigned to this detail. From the rear of the huge auditorium I can see people freely dumping money into the plates. I see no less than three men empty their wallets into the collection plates and I have only a limited view.
  Later the ushers gather in a room beside the auditorium where the money is banded and placed in canvas bags. A Brinks security truck is waiting outside and the money is carried to the armored  truck under the watchful eye of a cordon of D.C. cops.
  As you can imagine, traffic is a zoo for nearly an hour after the event ends. At that moment I have no idea I’d just witnessed one of the early crusades of then 34-year- old evangelist Billy Graham.

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