In August 1968, my parents, step-brother and I traveled across the U.S. via camper truck. Being a teenager packed-in like sardines with your family is not a ‘fun’ experience. In August. (or I imagine any other time.)
I always wanted to be one of those people who could read minds, or experience Extra-Sensory Perception or other stuff. Alas, I never have.
We were visiting family friends outside Washington, D.C.. The dad worked in Washington, so, he drove us into the city, and we caught a tour bus. Well, actually, a tour limousine. And we rapidly visited many of the historic sites in our Nation’s Capital. It was wonderful.
After the rapid-fire tour was completed, we were dropped back directly by the White House. And I was told I was ‘on my own’, and could meet the others at an appointed time again, at that location, later.
So, here’s young Guffaw, walking up Pennsylvania Avenue, taking in all the sites.
About a block down, across the street, a strange, foreboding feeling overcame me. I wasn’t afraid, just sad and confused. And strangely chilled. You’d think I’d be happy divesting myself of the family for a while?
And, I had just stopped in front of a white building, and tried to assess what I was feeling. Maybe I was coming down with something?
Then I saw the historic marker. It commemorates White House Policeman Leslie Coffelt, who, while mortally wounded, returned fire and killed Puerto Rican
Nationalist terrorist Griselio Torresola, who had just pumped four bullets into him, in an attempt to assassinate President Truman. (November 1, 1950)
Truman was staying at Blair House while the White House was under renovation.
Torresola and his partner Oscar Collazo had tried to storm Blair House to kill the President. And Officer Coffelt died protecting him, killing one of the assailants.
Collazo was sentenced to death, but commuted to life by President Truman. President Jimmy Carter then further commuted his sentence to time served, in 1979.
And, I got serious chills, standing on that spot. It had never happened to me before, or since.
Makes my skin crawl, today, just thinking about it.