Snapshots of history

Nuala O'Connor Kelly's office may not be imposing or have a window, but every available surface is covered with her history. The Sept. 12, 2001, front page of the New York Times draws your eye right away. Next to it is a framed photo of O'Connor Kelly and two other people in National Institute of Standards and Technology hard hats and hip boots at a NIST facility, a memory of her time at the Commerce Department's Technology Administration. The standard government nameplates from her positions at the department sit on the bookshelf next to her desk.

Other photos with personal messages and copies of newspaper and magazine articles are prominent, but on the door, she has taped a simple printout with a response from Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge in his "Ask the White House" online chat. Instead of focusing on an explanation of the department's mission or the budget for first responders, she highlighted a very specific answer that goes back to the connection they discovered in their first meeting: "My family still loves me, my three Labrador retrievers always seem to be happy to see me, regardless of what anybody says about my picture, and life is good."

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