After breakfast Vicky and I returned to the room to change. Craig took Hanna and Melinda to the palace steps to get set up. The Portugal media was to be notified of a VIP event ten minutes before we arrived but like most capitals, a few approved media always staked out the legislature halls and the presidential palaces.
Hanna – being the experienced open field reporter – quickly took advantage of the wait to film material for the lead in to the other news reports and local interest shows on her station. Melinda was handicapped because her experience was limited to Washington’s tightly controlled political scene. Melinda was fed her script for thirty second reports.
“Good morning this is Hanna Page for channel 34 news. Late yesterday afternoon my cameraman Jed Hoover and I, along with Melinda Schaffer and her camera man Nick Cote from ZNN were sworn to secrecy and spirited out of the United States. This morning we stepped off the plane in Lisbon Portugal.”
“I am climbing the steps of the palace and government office of Portugal Premier Aleixo Cordeiro. Just a few weeks ago Ambassador Jones and Vice President of the embassy security division for JBG Vicky Jones survived an assassination attempt at the top of these very steps. The bloody mess created by the attack has all been cleaned. The only reminder is the chips caused by the bullets in the marble and granite.”
“Ambassador Jones and Vicky are on their way and will arrive in a few minutes to climb these steps and complete the unfinished business of their first visit amid international diplomacy and under extremely heavy security supplied by JBG,” Hanna said.
Hanna and Jed quickly descended the steps and around Melinda and Nick who took the hint on what they could be doing and were ascending, working on her report.
With both reporters back to the sidewalk Craig handed both ladies body armor to put on.
“BJ’s convoy is five minutes away. Andy says you can make the connections to go live with your broadcast and send the reports you just made,” Craig said.
Moments later both ladies were looking into the cameras doing dialog and sending the tape they had just made.
While they were talking, JBG security and the official palace guard took their places on the steps. The JBG guards were armed; over head the helicopters started flying a box pattern. The cameras panned over the assembled security and helicopters flying over head.
The street had been blocked off at both ends eliminating unwanted and unknown traffic. Other than pre-approved local media no one was allowed on the street. Craig and Andy made sure that Hanna and Melinda had the best spots with the local media behind them.
The cameras followed the line of Suburbans as they came to a stop; more security exited the vehicles first. This much security was overkill and unnecessary but we were also trying to sell a security contract and first impressions would go a long way.
I waited until all the security was in place and Andy gave the OK for Vicky and me to exit the Suburban. We stepped out to blinding flash bulbs and video lights as we prepared to climb the steps.
When I looked up the steps the Premier, Vice Premier and his ministers were coming down to meet us and were nearly at the bottom.
Vicky and I met Premier Aleixo Cordeiro and Vice Premier Eamon Ferreira at the first step. I knew it was planned for the local media but it would also play well in Washington. Sorry Troy, your ‘keeping my head down’ wasn’t going to work.
“Ambassador Jones, Vicky, I am so glad you came back to Lisbon. The things that happened last time you were here were not of the Portugal I know and love,” the Premier said.
“We are glad to be back and plan to enjoy my short stay in historic Lisbon. All freedom loving nations are under intense pressure as radical terrorism rears its ugly head worldwide. We in the states have not been immune to the deadly attacks.”
“My goal while I am here is to expand your knowledge and explain deterrents necessary to defeat terrorism and improve communications between our countries,” I said.
“With that in mind the Ambassador and I can announce a five nation anti-terrorism summit and informational program on Friday at the National Police Training center here in Lisbon. US Ambassador Jones will be there as the principal speaker and her JBG security division will be providing training and displays,” Premier Aleixo Cordeiro said.
“The five countries participating are Portugal, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Albania,” I said with the camera flashes still going off.
For the local media’s benefit Premier Cordeiro introduced me to all the ministers and dignitaries and said a few words to them as I went down the line shaking hands and playing diplomat.
When I finished, Premier Cordeiro asked if I would take a few questions from the local media.
“Sure, I think the reporters with me may have some as well,” I said.
“Ambassador Jones, have you fully recovered from the wounds you received here and in Israel?” one asked.
“Yes I have recovered and I am back working out in the gym,” I replied.
“When you stepped out of your SUV did you have second thoughts about climbing those steps again?” another asked.
“No, no second thoughts at all. It is not in my nature to back away when things have been difficult. I view those things as a challenge to be overcome and to move past them,” I replied.
“How long are you going to stay in Portugal and are you going to other countries in the area?” another one asked.
“I have some official functions to attend Saturday and will fly home after that. No, I am not visiting any other countries on this trip. I have pressing business in the US that I need to attend to on Monday,” I said.
“Ambassador Jones, are you going to do any sightseeing on this trip?” Melinda asked.
“My work schedule is going to allow me very little leeway to sight see this historic nation on this trip. I intend to come back again and spend days to do that,” I replied.
Melinda was not fooling me, she had been looking at the brochures at customs while commenting on all the things she would like to see if there was time.
“Ambassador Jones, why were there only five nations involved in this anti-terrorism summit?” Hanna asked.
“Those five nations had reached out to my training group requesting a broad program to help with the problems they are experiencing. Space was another consideration,” I replied.
At that I walked up the steps to the Presidential Palace with Premier Aleixo Cordeiro. The cameras were not missing a single step. At the top the Premier pointed out all the bullet damage to the wall where a few short weeks ago we had been standing.
The rest of the day was spent discussing a variety of things including the security proposal he had asked for. Andy was meeting with his ministers and doing field assessments at each of their houses and making plans for us to work with.
Each minister had different requirements that needed to be met. There were of course several calls from Troy, the President and the Secretary of State.
At one point in the afternoon we took a break and the Premier, Vice Premier and several ministers rode around the city in a small motorcade – sort of a guided tour – in the Suburban’s.
I pointed out that JBG would supply this kind of armored SUV for VIP use. Secretly, that was one reason for the trip to get them inside one, more of a sales pitch for Marcy.
At 1700 Portugal time we called it a day. Hanna and Melinda had just returned from sightseeing the city in time to make a report for the afternoon news cycle. Outside with them was the gang of reporters that were there this morning. A quick news conference followed with the reporters
We were going back to the Corinthia Hotel to eat in the restaurant and then to the embassy. It was noon in America and plenty of time to catch up on events at home.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.