Lynchburg, Va. firefighter-paramedic Abbey Meacham was teaching a class yesterday when, while on a break, she got a phone call. The first lady of the United States was requesting her presence, and she wanted her that very night.
"There was very little warning," Meacham says. "I was at the right place at the right time."
General president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Harold Schaitberger called her and explained that first lady Michelle Obama was looking for an active firefighter, preferably female, to sit with her during the President's address to Congress.
She called her chief to get permission, and sent another firefighter to her house to pack a bag. In no time she was on a plane, headed to Washington, D.C. Once there, she says she had just 20 minutes to get ready and into her uniform.
When she arrived at the White House, she was ushered in through the southeast gate. She and about 20 other invited guests were taken to the White House theatre, where they each got to spend a few minutes chatting with the first lady.
"She was just incredible, grounded, down to earth, very kind."
Next, traffic was halted and the group was taken by motorcade to the U.S. Capitol. Once inside, Meacham says she was awestruck.
"It was pretty awesome to look and see Hillary Clinton, Clarence Thomas, all these powerful people. To be in a room with them, it was a humbling experience."
Meacham said that the International Association of Fire Fighters was very supportive of President Obama during his campaign, and in return, he has been very supportive of firefighters.
She got a chance to speak with the president after the speech, and said he had positive words for the firefighting community.
"I told him I was honored to represent my brother and sister firefighters," Meacham said, "and he said he was proud of us and dedicated to taking care of us."
Meacham has been a fire fighter/paramedic in the Lynchburg Fire Department since 2004, and she works out of Station 6, the busiest station in Lynchburg.