Today, Friday, February 28th, 2020 I walked out of CIA Headquarters for the last time as an employee, almost almost 13 years since the first time I did it on July 23rd, 2007. The decision to leave has been a long time coming, and I’ve been looking for other opportunities for some time. I have a new full-time position I’m starting in a few weeks, and I will write more on that in future posts. This is what happened today.
I never knew what my last day would be like, but I knew I wanted it to include a few things, including riding my motorcycle to work and walking out across the famous CIA seal in the lobby of the Original Headquarters Building.
So this morning around 7:45 a.m., I hopped on my bike and rode to work in the sub-freezing air, entering the compound via the George Washington Memorial Parkway, one last time. Instead of parking in the normal motorcycle parking lot, I decided to slip my bike next to a 24-hour reserved spot in front of the building, so I could enter through the main entrance and cross the seal one last time.
Then I scanned my badge, and entered my pin, one last time. I logged in to my computer system, one last time, and said goodbye to my close friends. At 11:45, I had lunch in the Agency Dining Room, a place I had never dined because I decided I wouldn’t go there until the day I quit. It would be the last meal I would eat at the CIA.
After that, I walked to my office, one last time, grabbed my motorcycle jacket and helmet, said goodbye to my boss, and took the elevator downstairs to the lobby. As I walked from the elevator bank to the lobby, I began to cry, though I did my best to hold back my tears.
I walked down the steps toward the turnstiles and hesitated as I held my badge in my hand. It would be the last time I would use the badge…ever. I took a breath and tapped my badge on the reader. The turnstiles opened and I walked through, one last time, this time, no longer as an employee. I placed my jacket, helmet, and badge on a marble bench along the side of the lobby and met the photographer I had scheduled.
He positioned me on the seal and snapped a few pictures…and that was it. I shook his hand and grabbed my things, putting on my jacket and unclipping my badge from my lanyard so I could turn it into the security officers.
I walked up to the security desk, where a group of security officers were chatting. I began to cry again, and struggled, again, to hold back my tears. I held the badge up and steadied it on the desk.
One looked at me. “Oh, no, really?” the officer asked me.
I couldn’t say anything, so I bit my lip as tears filled my eyes. All I could do was nod.
“Best of luck,” he said as he took the badge.
I nodded again as the first tears began to come down my cheeks. I took one more breath, looked back, and walked across the seal toward the exit one last time.
One last time.
I walked through the first set of doors and then the second set. I paused and looked around, and I cried more. As I began walking away from the building, a voice called out from behind me.
“Sir! Excuse me, sir.”
I stopped and turned around. It was the officer from the security desk.
“Sir, I don’t know what you did here, but it seems like this place was really special to you.” He held out his right hand, and in it was a challenge coin from CIA’s Office of Security. “Thanks for everything you did.”
As more tears came down my cheeks, I thanked him, and shook his hand, accepting the coin via the handshake.
“13 years.” It was all I could say as I began to cry more.
“Good luck, sir.”
I put the coin in my jacket and walked down the front entrance steps across the parking lot to my motorcycle. I strapped on my helmet and gloves and put the key in the ignition. I looked up at CIA Headquarters, one last time.
One last time.
I turned on the engine, put it into first gear, and merged on to the perimeter road. As I crossed the face of the Original Headquarters Building, I raised my left fist in the air as more tears filled my eyes.
I rode out the main gate, one last time.