WASHINGTON -- Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Schweiker had been stuck in elevators before. But the experience is much less trying, he said, when the president of the United States is at your side.
Reagan, Schweiker, Education Secretary Terrel Bell, an usher and a Secret Service agent spent five minutes stuck between floors of the White House Thursday as the result of a utility plant fire that caused scattered power outages around Washington.
The president was en route to a ceremony saluting a new public-private effort to provide health care screening to millions of Americans.
The start of the ceremony was delayed by the elevator incident. When he arrived, the president said: 'I don't know just how to approach this and tell you why we were late. In 18 months it's never happened.'
'We've been between here and the floor below in the elevator,' Reagan explained. 'We had plenty of time to get acquainted.'
As he concluded his remarks and left to return to the West Wing, the president quipped: 'I believe I'll take the stairs. I need the exercise.'
Schweiker, who addressed the audience after Reagan, made light of the incident.
'I've been stalled in elevators several times, but I've never felt so secure,' Schweiker said. 'Ted Bell and I knew that help was on the way.'