With an introduction by Ben Franklin and fanfare appropriate to its home overlooking Independence Hall, Region III of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dedicated its new offices in Center City Philadelphia.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt joined Regional Director Rita A. Calvan in cutting the ribbon before an assembly of 200 invited guests, staff members, and representatives of the states in the region - Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia - and Washington, D.C.
The afternoon's festivities capitalized on Philadelphia's central role in American history, with greeters in colonial garb to welcome guests as they stepped off the elevators in FEMA's sixth floor lobby. A town crier and a fife and drum corps directed visitors to the main conference room, which added modern day Philadelphia style refreshments, including soft pretzels and Rita's Water Ice.
Ralph Archbold, who portrays Ben Franklin in Philadelphia, connected the past to the present, remarking on his personal knowledge of disasters. "Remember, I was the one who flew the kite with the key in the thunderstorm."
Director Witt and Regional Director Calvan spoke briefly about the future of FEMA and the agency's role in not only responding to disasters, but in helping communities become disaster resistant.