By Dan Smith
From the time I was a young boy, I dreamed of going to see the Summer Olympics.
The idea of the world's athletes competing peacefully was an attractive concept then as it is now. With that in mind, I ordered my tickets in early 1995 for the Atlanta Olympics that would be held in 1996.
I was excited to have the opportunity to be at the Games in person and better yet, I would be accompanied by my 13 year-old-son Landan.
After the year-long wait, we awoke at 4 a. m. to make the long drive up to north Georgia.
In the year since I had ordered the tickets, my sister Linda had moved from DeLand to an Atlanta suburb so we would have a place to stay. Things were definitely shaping up.
That morning as we packed to leave I turned the TV on to check the weather. To my surprise and horror, the television was filled with reports of a bomb exploding in Olympic Park. Right away my wife Lana began unpacking our bags. She was not going to send our young son into danger, but after so much anticipation, my mind could not be changed. We arrived in Atlanta at about 2 p.m. with tickets for track and field at 4 p.m.
Right away, we were accosted by the stepped-up security. We parked in a remote lot and were searched before boarding a bus to a train where we were searched and then dropped near the Olympic Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Now, I have to tell you, as an ex-military policeman, I know a little about security.
Holding a top secret security clearance, I once served as chief of security for the big NATO Nuclear Arms Summit in Frankfurt Germany.
Yet, for some reason as soon as Landan and I had cleared the security checkpoint at the stadium, I said, "Boy I'm glad they didn't take our bullets." That was a decidedly stupid thing to say. We were in the middle of a chaotic situation with everyone's nerves on edge. Besides, we didn't have any bullets- at least not real ones. What I was referring to was frozen one-pint plastic containers of apple juice that Lana had packed for us.
For years, Lana had frozen those spherical little containers for my fishing trips. Her name for them was "bullets." Around our house, it was not unusual to hear "don't forget your bullets." The little containers provided ice, and once they melted, were a tasty cold drink. My comment was innocent, but not a great thing to say at the checkpoint just after a bomb had gone off. The guards called us back and gave us the full cavity search. Once inside the stadium, it was bedlam. Continuous announcements sounded a warning not to leave anything behind at your seat. People were losing their tickets and possessions all over the place.
Later outside at Olympic Park, Landan and I watched a robot take apart someone's new toaster that had been momentarily abandoned. The bomb had certainly put a damper on our Olympic experience, but somehow we still had a lot of fun. We will never forget helping out all of the lost visitors from Asia and Western Europe.
The bomb in Atlanta could not stop the Olympic Games, just as the terrorists in Munich 1972 did not stop those games. The Olympics are definitely larger than any dastardly deed that some misguided fool might perpetrate.
I just hope that truth does not have to be proven once more in London.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.