Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Fellow Americans, the hotel is on fire

This was the headline of the story in the Washington Post on February 26 , 2000.

It was referring to a fire at the Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C. during a visit by President Clinton. The story has long washed away from the archives or at least I couldn't find it anyway. I was working there at the time as the Guest Services Manager and what a day that was. I will never forget it because of all the hoopla going on that day with the president, secret service and so on and suddenly the fire alarms go off. It was controlled chaos behind the scenes but we looked great to the public, which is just how it is supposed to be. "Never let them see you sweat"

Here is an excerpt from the news article that I saved.

Written by Washington Post staff writer Petula Dvorak and the Associated Press contributed to the report.

"Though he tried to continue his speech over the blaring fire alarm, President Clinton was ushered out of a hotel ballroom yesterday when officials realized the hotel's laundry room was ablaze. Clinton had just begun his speech at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, in the 2600 block of Woodley Road NW, when the alarm sounded.

The president thanked "the noisemaker in the back," then tried to continue his remarks for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. The is given annually by congress to U.S. companies in the areas of manufacturing, service and small business to recognize quality and performance. Clinton joked that, because of the alarm, "the Marriott is not a candidate for the Baldrige Award." One of the four recipients yesterday was the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

"Maybe they're are telling us it's a fire alarm and I'm to keep you here while the fire burns, I don't know," he said, " Could somebody tell me what the deal is?" Clinton asked. A staff member said it was indeed a fire alarm.

"Are we supposed to leave?" the president asked.
"Not yet," the aide replied
"Not yet?" Clinton asked incredulously. "That's not an encouraging answer. Not yet."
"Well, unless somebody starts singing 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, ' I think...we may just start and go on." he said

Downstairs, firefighters were arriving where the service area was ablaze and the order had been given to evacuate. Three Secret Service officers entered the ballroom and motioned for the audience of about 1,000 to leave. Clinton calmly walked out with Commerce Secretary William Daley. They were taken to a stairwell to Clinton's limousine and driven back to the White House, spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

"Apparently, a contract welder working near the laundry room set off a small fine in the laundry room," Lockhard said. "The fire marshals responded and made the decision to evacuate the hotel. The president evacuated and came back to the White House."

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