My Run in With the FBI

February 1, 2024 at 10:14 a.m.
Cartoon by Pete D’Amico
Cartoon by Pete D’Amico Pat D'Amico

My grandchildren will never believe that I was once tracked down by the FBI. 

It began on a summer day in the early 70s. I answered the doorbell to find two men in dark suits and skinny ties on my doorstep. The late afternoon sun glinted off of the FBI badges that they thrust under my nose.

“Are you Mrs. D’Amico?” asked Agent No. 1, eyeing me suspiciously.

“I am,” I answered cautiously.

“Is that your car?” asked Agent No. 2, as he scrutinized a red, 1966 Ford convertible in the carport.

“It is.”

“Did you drive it today?”

“I did.”

“When will your husband be home?” demanded Agent No. 1, looking to see if I was starting to squirm.

“In about an hour, and what is this all about?” I finally blurted.

The agents responded in one voice, “We’re not at liberty to say. We’ll be back.”

My eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter were taking all of this in with eyes like ping-pong balls. I closed the door and assured them that “Mommy” would not be hauled off to prison.

When my husband came home, I hurriedly told him what happened. Good thing, too, because the FBI was back within minutes. I invited them in. They declined. They wanted to talk to my husband, alone, outside.

I glued my ear to the door and when that didn’t work, I stared them down from inside the front window. Two can play that game, I thought. There were gestures toward me and my car. Finally, my husband smiled, sort of, and the agents shifted their demeanor into neutral. Without a word, they turned and left.

“What!” I said when my husband came in the house.

“You were spotted near the Safeway Distribution Center photographing the movement of trains. Some radical group had threatened to plant a bomb and disrupt the food supply.”

“They thought I was going to blow up Safeway?” I asked incredulously.

“Apparently, your long hair fit some kind of a profile and you have been reported more than once at that site. I explained the ‘train thing’ in our family and even offered to show them the N gauge railroad layout in our basement. They seemed satisfied, I think.”

“They just left!” I said. “No apology! How about, ‘We’re sorry we scared the bejeebers out of you?”

I was, indeed, complicit in photographing railroad operations, only the camera was held by an eight-year-old train nut. In fact, we had been hanging around train tracks all over town so he could take pictures and then draw the engines and cars accurately.

We decided this matter needed resolution so we asked out attorney to write a letter to the FBI, vouching for my character and promising I would not blow up Safeway. That, Dear Children, is a promise I have kept to this day.

Editor's Note: The 'infamous' Pat D'Amico sent a postscript about this story: "A little snippet of background on the true FBI story:  At the time, I was surprised to learn that the old Eastside Journal had done a small piece on the incident.  They must have had a reporter keeping an eye on the FBI." 

This photo of Pat D’Amico, longtime contributor to Northwest Prime Time, was taken the day of her 70th high school reunion. “I kept my mom’s house in Bellingham and the renters are wonderful. My daughter snapped the picture while I was looking around with great pleasure,” says Pat.

Share this story!