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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Want to walk. (Big smile, little walking fingers again.)
On catwalk. (I pointed to it.)
I'd mouthed the words, bowed and hopped up on the catwalk.
"Go back!" ordered a loudspeaker next to the camera. "Go back!" Crackling with static and ricocheting off the tiled walls, the command sounded like a burst from an ack-ack gun. "Pedestrians are prohibited! You will be put under arrest!" I'd thrown up my hands in mock surrender and headed north. A couple of miles up the road I'd come to the industrial plant; from its guardhouse I'd called the police.
"I'm telling you," the policeman continued, "when they say you can't run through the tunnel, and the signs are posted, you just can't do it." He paused and took a deep breath. "Don't you think maybe you ought to call it quits for today? You must be getting pretty cold."
I didn't want to admit it, but he was absolutely right. The sun was going down, my legs were growing stiff—I didn't have much choice. I swung the backpack off my shoulders and opened a door of the patrol car. But as I was about to get in, the policeman motioned me away.
"Wait a second," he said softly. "Just wait." He picked up his radio handset and called headquarters. "Get me the duty officer—whoever's in charge.... Thanks." He kept the microphone close to his mouth and stared out the windshield toward the plant. When the radio sputtered its response, the policeman spoke again.
"I've got a man here who's traveling around the country on foot, and he'd like to go through the tunnel. I want to give him an escort." It was as if Clark Kent had just turned into Superman. "Call the tunnel authorities and tell them to stop all traffic eastbound when we give the word. I'll cut in on the westbound roadway and hold up that traffic. Make sure those guys in the tunnel turn on the flashers. And let's make it as fast as possible, O.K.? The man's already run 20-some miles today, and I don't want him to cramp up before he makes it through. Let me know as soon as we've got clearance."
A few minutes later I was standing before the tunnel camera and loudspeaker once again. This time, though, the only voice I heard was that of the policeman wishing me good luck.