by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 28, 2004
A MOTE IN THE EYE OF THE G-8 STORM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The calm before the storm is filled with foreboding as you watch and wait, feeling your way around for some picture of what is to come - and there's none.
The United States of America is hosting G-8, the Group of Eight world powers, and they're meeting in Georgia. $25 million is being spent on security - and I do mean security. The Secret Service is in charge and they tell "us" what to do, secretly - leaving the residents to assume what is going to happen here.
Rumors abound. Everyone has heard something "off the record" from a "reliable source."
Restaurants don't know whether to stay open or close. Most we've visited lately want to stay open for the Island's residents and service personnel, but most of their wait staff live across the causeway. At an open meeting designed to apprise the locals of what exactly is going on, we learned merely that it will take an hour and a half to cross the causeway in each direction - the causeway being the only way on and off the Island.
There's always construction on St. Simons, where land is at a premium and the desire to live here is great. I heard today "off the record" that the construction workers were told to take two weeks off and, of course, that would be without pay. They were told by their bosses, not the secret service, but the bosses were told there would be no getting on and off the island. What's a guy to do?
The preparations for G-8 began four months ago. First there was an influx of men in dark suits with little flags on their lapels, a cell phone in their hand and wrap-around sunglasses. Surprise! We all knew they were Secret Service. Soon, when they lined up at a local pub for an after-work beer, they were wearing floral shirts, khaki pants and sandals. They blend right in with the tourists and natives alike.
On the one hand it's flattering the powers that be chose this little diamond of an island on the southeast corner of the United States but it would be so much kinder if we were involved. How we would love to be part of it all instead of being shushed, and, more or less told to keep out of the way.
One of the earliest rumors came from an agent playing golf on his day off: (Off the record, of course) "Just stock up on supplies and stay in your own home for the duration of the meetings and the marching protesters."
Security is their business, not mine. Let me assume they know exactly how to do it and the fewer people in on the plans, the better. And, it's by far better to have my nose out of joint, as the saying goes, over a slight than to leave an opening for a terrorist plan to take effect. Nevertheless, it seems we're keeping Americans out of the plans for America to play host for the world.
The $25 million is a reasonable expense for the taxpayers to foot for the honor of welcoming the leaders of the world. However, it's not reasonable to cancel hotel reservations and wedding receptions for the entire month of June without any compensation ... just notification.
Rumor has it, further, that boats will not be coming into our marinas, beaches will be closed, and parks will be patrolled. Again, these are rumors but as time goes by and we see the planes flying low overhead and many helicopters hovering, and armed humvies on our roads, well, they don't seem so baseless.
One of the meetings suggested First Lady Laura Bush was championing the idea that wives be invited to the summit. Our ears perked up at that. Mrs. Bush is no stranger to the Sea Island location and would take the other ladies on a morning bird watching tour in and around our marshes.
Well, if the women come, there will be shoppers! Our quaint little shops dotting the island will have an opportunity to display their southern hospitality while selling their wares - which is why they put in their long hours year round, catering to tourists who normally crowd the island each June, filling the coffers of the merchants, who can only thrive if the "season" is great.
Only time will tell if that rumor bears fruit and the wives arrive.
I'm proud to say our visitors will be safe and the security so tight that no one will get onto our little island without proper security clearance. And yes, I am griping; certainly not because they're coming, I'm happy about that, but because I'm not on the inside track, I'm out of the loop. I'm left in the dark.
Friends around the country, and some e-friends around the world, know I live here and have started to ask what it's all about.
"What is this G-8 that's going to be on St. Simons? Is it a Golf Tournament?"
"No, it's not a golf tournament," I answer.
"Then, what is all the hullabaloo about?"
"Well, let's say the world is beating a path to our door," I say, amused.
"So, you built a better mouse trap."
"Then what, what?"