Obama in Vermont
The day began with a ham, egg and cheese bagel sandwich and ended with two slices of free pizza in the newsroom. And, Obama stopped by. The president visited Burlington, Vt. for just a few hours but in that time he managed to stir up a pack of anxious reporters, photographers and a few thousand supporters at his campaign stops. Obama is the first president to visit the state of Vermont since 1995. Bill Clinton strolled the streets of Burlington 17 years ago and in the years following Vermonters have grown excited for another presidential visit. Friday was a first for me. I have not been in the presence of a president before, and though I knew his protective bubble would keep me at a distance, it was an exciting honor to be able to capture the commander in chief arriving and deplaning from Air Force One.
The day started at 6 a.m. where I’d gather last minute gear from my photo editor, snack on a breakfast sandwich and check-in for security procedures at the Vermont Air National Guard base. After the first ID check and car sweep I double-checked everything, readied my gear, juiced up my batteries and sat, anxiously, for the next step. I still had 4 hours to kill but in that time I would consult with the White House liaisons, press aides and secret service members to ensure all of my equipment, my vehicle and myself were cleared for entry to the Burlington International Airport tarmac.
During those 4 hours of waiting I captured the behind-the-scenes moments with my iPhone posting to Twitter and Facebook through the Instagram app. I was often separated from my professional equipment during security screenings so the iPhone proved to be a perfect tool to capture these fleeting moments.
People were excited for Obama’s arrival but it would be hours until they would see him step off the plane so to tease the big event and keep readers in the loop I used Instagram to chronicle my morning. I immediately received encouraging feedback and Tweets as Vermonters wanted to know all the details behind a presidential arrival.
The Instagram approach kept me hunting for little details and really proved to be the best way to pass the hours and hours of waiting as all of us media folk grew more anxious. We followed each other like a pack, not wanting one organization to receive instruction without the other. If someone grabbed their gear, everyone followed suit and chased after them only realizing, the competing news agency was taking a bathroom break. Oh. We were giddy kids hauling an unbelievable amount of gear for a 5 minute glimpse of America’s most powerful person.
Stuck behind a chain-link fence or cordoned into a designated press pit, I was able to stay connected with everyone else, including my newsroom, through my iPhone photos and make the “hurry up and wait” much more pleasant for all.
Photos: Complete photo gallery chronicling Obama’s visit to Vermont click HERE
Video: Air Force One arrives at Burlington International Airport click HERE
Video: Obama deplaning Air Force One click HERE
Video: Obama’s campaign speech to Vermonters click HERE
White House liaisons work with the Vermont National Guard to gain access to the tarmac during early morning preparations for President Obama’s arrival.
In just a few hours this platform would hold all of Vermont’s media groups and become a crowded, clustered array of cameras, radios, reporters, photographers and assistants. Everyone was incredibly polite, focused and silent when Obama deplaned and I’ll say it again and again, I was impressed no one was throwing elbows. Thank you for that.
A cameraman for a local TV station is screened before entry to the press pit.
A secret service dog sniffs equipment from the media before being hand inspected by several agents. This was mandatory, including two vehicle searches and two metal detector screenings, for us to gain entry to the tarmac.
My turn for my second screening.
A member of the Vermont National Guard hangs from the edge of the press pit to capture the scene as our excitement reaches fever pitch with Obama’s arrival only minutes away.
The presidential stairs are moved into place as Air Force One nears Burlington International Airport.
Moments after Obama deplaned, shook hands with supporters and climbed into his motorcade I had our social media guru Adam Silverman snap this photo of me in front of Air Force One. I’ve seen bigger planes, including a C-5 cargo plane loading gear for the National Guard, but nothing compares to AF-1. This plane carries a powerful presence and it was a bit surreal to be standing near it. Thanks Adam!
And here he is, the POTUS. With a smile and a wave, Obama stepped off Air Force One and proved that hours and hours of preparation, planning and waiting were worth it, if only for just a glimpse. I tried to step out of myself and absorb just a bit of memory while simultaneously taking photos. Sounds easy to do, but always proves difficult. My brain goes into tack-sharp focus mode and it seems impossible to process the site before me. But, there he was, America’s biggest VIP. Regardless of your politics, to be in the presence of a president is an honor and a privilege. Today I photographed the president.
For complete photo galleries and video please click on the links above or visit www.burlingtonfreepress.com