Have you ever wondered how an original version of the Declaration of Independence travels?
Recently Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence (the one that condemned slavery) traveled from England to its home at the New York Public Library and Tom Daly of The Daily Beast went along for the last leg of the journey.
Here is a taste of Daly’s article describing the experience:
Virgin Atlantic Flight 3 from London descended through the gray summer haze and touched down at JFK Airport in New York just ahead of schedule. The Airbus A340-600 taxied up to the gate, its nose painted with the word ”Dancing Queen” and a woman in a swimsuit waving a Union Jack in each hand.
A baggage vehicle rolled up and the operator opened the door to the forward baggage compartment on the right side of the fuselage. He pointed to what had been the last item loaded aboard, a metal cargo container that was cocooned in plastic and stenciled with “AKE 0026 US.”
“The thing is there!” the operator announced.
He was addressing members of the NYPD Intelligence Bureau and the Port Authority Police who stood waiting on the tarmac. A Port Authority armored vehicle with a heavily armed emergency service team was nearby.
All eyes were on the cargo container as it was transferred to a trailer towed by a small airport vehicle. The vehicle immediately set off. It was escorted by a small convoy that included the armored vehicle and a black unmarked car driven by Inspector Steven D’Ulisse of the intelligence bureau.
On other days, the Intelligence Division had planned and implemented protection for any number of visiting dignitaries, most prominently including the president. The cops will be doing the same for the pope later this month.
The usual watchful care was now being accorded this metal container as if there were a living being inside as it rolled up to a cargo facility. Hundreds of millions in cash and gold routinely pass through this portal, but it was clear that this was something whose value was beyond the measure of money.
And the cops were not just standing guard lest anyone try to steal the contents. They were making sure that no harm came to it. And they were doing so with a hint of wonder, a touch of school-kid enthusiasm that bubbled just under their all-pro vigilance.