Standing in front of a banner that read, “Midway High School Supports the Law,” three Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents came to pay back students for sweets and support shown the beleaguered agency during the 46-day standoff at Mount Carmel.
“The hospitality has been humbling,” said Mike Gammage, an ATF agent from Washington, D.C. “I am a native Texan, so I am kind of used to friendliness of the people here. But the friendship and support the people of this community have shown us is unprecedented.”
The agents spoke to several Midway High School homemaking classes, which have baked at least 60 dozen cookies to add to the 300 dozen others baked by other area schools to show support for the agents.
Students also have painted banners and sent the agents signs, which now adorn the main field command post near Tradinghouse Lake, Gammage said.
“We are here to thank them for their support. It’s payback,” he said.
Gammage and agents Franceska Perot and Cindy Grob, who told the students that they could be called away at any time should the standoff break, showed a brief film about the ATF and then opened up the rest of the class period to questions.
Students asked about a variety of topics, ranging from whether federal authorities are providing food to cult leader Vernon Howell and his followers holed up inside the Branch Davidian compound – which they aren’t – to why agents didn’t try to arrest Howell away from the compound.
Mary Broadway, who teaches homemaking with Carol Woods, Marjorie Page and Cendy Herbst, said the students are fascinated by the cult standoff and enjoyed the agents’ visit.