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Dignitaries tour area parks

January 10, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - When Michael Ford told a friend he might go by Shepherdstown, W.Va., and give participants of the Mideast Peace Talks some advice, the Chicago-area resident didn't expect to actually come close to such an opportunity.

Instead of heading to Shepherdstown, Ford visited Harpers Ferry National Historical Park on Sunday and came close to such an opportunity with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Ford, 51, of the Chicago suburb Carol Stream, said he was heading toward the firehouse where John Brown was captured when he saw the limousines, sport utility vehicles, police cruisers and several Secret Service agents.

"I thought it was a movie," Ford said.

Instead of going up to the Israeli delegation, Ford said he decided to hang back and watch from the visitors center, especially since he didn't want the Secret Service to misconstrue his cane as a weapon.

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"I wish I had gotten their autographs," he said.

Park Ranger David Fox said he gave the Israeli diplomats approximately a 10 to 15 minute tour, taking them out to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and then over to the flood marker.

Fox said Barak asked him what the park does when it floods and everyone wanted to know how many slaves and free African Americans there were at the time of the John Brown raid.

"They were very friendly and seemed comfortable," said Fox, who has been a park ranger for 10 years.

Barak's wife had a picture taken of St. Peter's Catholic Church, which she was admiring, he said.

Albright is a frequent visitor to the park, where she has previously brought her grandchildren, Fox said.

"She was as much a tour guide as I was," Fox said.

Earlier in the day Albright took Barak and company to Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, where they watched a film about the Civil War battle and listened to a lecture by Park Ranger Paul Chiles and Bruce Reidel, a Civil War buff and Middle East expert with the National Security Council.

As the group toured the battlefield, Barak asked how the two armies communicated during the Civil War, listening to Chiles explain about bugles, signal flags, messengers and torches.

On Saturday, Albright led the Syrian delegation from Jefferson Rock down into the lower part of the town, Fox said. Park Ranger Kim Biggs aided in Saturday's tour, he said.

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