My Craft

Feel Better, Already?

Letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, December 2005

What are they really looking for at Hoover Dam?

Coming home from Texas after Thanksgiving with a small trailer load of furniture I left Kingman wondering if I should drive through Laughlin or cross Hoover Dam. The signs and the radio messages in Kingman made it clear my trailer would be inspected. Since past inspections were cursory I decided we could move across the dam as usual and put an end to our 1,100 mile journey.

Approaching the dam we stopped at the security checkpoint and were directed to pull over to have our trailer inspected. The Wackenhut guard instructed me to untarp the load, which I did. However, he went further to state that we needed to unload the trailer so he could look in the drawers of the dressers. As he put it, “we’re looking for everything,” and then proceeded to brag about how he had seized 200 pounds of marijuana last month. So I asked him if he intended to conduct a drug search and if so then he needed to send out a Bureau of Reclamation police officer to explain why they were looking for drugs, not explosives, and to inform me of my rights.

Eventually the officer arrived. He took objection to my questions about the proposed drug search and indicated they were only looking for explosives. I told him we were bringing furniture back and that if he looked he could clearly see the bed’s headboard in the trailer. No dice; we had to unload the trailer. After 20 minutes of pulling down the rope ties and preparing to unload the furniture, we were told to stop.

In what seemed a surreal moment, the police officer and security guard each picked up an end of a dresser and shook it. Satisfied we did not bring in explosives in either dresser, and nothing went off, we were instructed to retarp the trailer and leave. Mad and physically sick, my wife and I tied down our trailer filled with our new bedroom suite and left for home. We drove the next 40 miles in silence with my wife and children crying. I felt like the most dishonored person in America.

If the Bureau of Reclamation is looking for explosives in cars and trailers moving across Hoover Dam, why would their training allow them to shake the alleged bomb carrying boxes? Where were the bomb dogs or the equipment used to collect explosive residue? And if they weren’t looking for drugs why did they tell me unload my small trailer, which just happened to have a Texas license plate, while four other trailers and two utility trucks were given a cursory search and sent on their way?

If I wanted to blow up the dam I wouldn’t pack up a trailer of furniture with explosive material, drive it 1,100 miles, only to have a couple of law officers shake the furniture. I would make sure those dressers exploded when rattled.

It is clear to me after this experience that the Bureau of Reclamation is only stopping cars at Hoover Dam to make everyone feel better about their safety and not because they have any hopes of preventing terrorists from packing in explosive devices. And if my experience is any indication, we are one stop closer to a police state where no one can move across borders, or across the street, without fearing they will be found guilty by the police before they can prove their innocence.

Finally, shame on those officers for terrorizing three young children who remain convinced police may come for their parents because they wanted to bring furniture across Hoover Dam.

© 2005 – 2016, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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