For Jim Hooley, the moment of truth came as he stood in a remote area of Los Angeles International Airport, watching Ronald Reagan’s eight-car caravan drive off.
“I just suddenly realized, ‘It’s over.’ I’m standing there waving at a car,” he recalled.
For eight years, Hooley had been a White House advance man and then head of the Advance Office, arranging for Reagan’s presidential trips and accompanying him in airplanes and motorcades at home and abroad.
Now he’s been left at the airport.
He had known he would not travel in this final motorcade to the former President’s new home, but it still came as a shock.
“I don’t know what you expect, but it sort of ends abruptly,” he said.
Hooley’s experience is typical of many, but not all, former White House aides as they move from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to more mundane addresses.
Some say they experience no pangs.
“I had been wanting to get out of government for about five years, so this is a fun directed the White House Office of Public Liaison before Jan. 20 and is now a vice president of Texas Air.
“After a while, I think everyone gets to the point where they want to live a more normal life,” said Elizabeth Board, looking for work after her years as director of the White House Television Office.
But for many, like Hooley, it is “kind of traumatic. “People handle it differently,” he said. “You went from people who literally cried as they packed their cardboard boxes to others who went through a state of numbness.
“I think when we began to feel it was when the time came to start clearing out of your offices, and new people who were going to be moving into your offices were beginning to stick their heads in.”
But even after they were on the airplane headed west, Hooley said, the impact did not quite sink in for the staff, perhaps not for Reagan either, since the routine was one they had followed before.
Then came the moment at the airport.
After Hooley arrived back at his suburban Virginia home, workmen came to remove the White House telephones on every floor--part of the elaborate communications setup he enjoyed as head of the advance program.
“All of a sudden, you realize that you are like everybody else now,” he said.