I was on my way to CVS on Langhorne Road when I passed the massive gathering for Obama at E.C. Glass. I kicked myself gently for not pulling out the stops to make arrangements to attend to document the event, but I’d heard the event was sold out several days ago.
So I finished my business at CVC, drove to Boonsboro, dropped by Montana Plains to get pies for Jo Ann, drove home, tried to call a couple of contacts, then thought I might just follow my intuitive “nose for news.” Maybe a scalper would be afoot with a ticket.
He was to speak at 6:30 and I left the house at 6:15. Found the last parking spot in the lot beside Lakeside Drive, grabbed my gear, and walked forth.
When I arrived, about 150 who had tickets were turned away by the Fire Marshall because the gym was full. Secret Service snipers were all over the roof. I fired off several photos of them. Stupid. Grim hard stares and a set of binoculars trained straight on me for a few moments.
An operative came out and apologized to the crowd and said if we wanted to see him, to assemble nearby on the west side of the school. Without a ticket, I joined the teeming mass. Got wanded and had my camera bag and gear checked then managed to get right up behind the first row.
Then a gaggle of national media photographers came out and settled in about five feet from me.
Suddenly Obama appeared and spoke briefly to the crowd, apologizing for the overflow and thanking everyone for arriving. The crowd went wild. I had my 100-400 monster lens and snapped away with clear shots, Obama 20 feet from me. Jim Webb was with him.
He warmly apologized to the group that could not get into the gym. He was cordial and polite, with the most beautiful smile. I could see him extremely closeup through the telephoto. He has stunning eyes, that are deep, bright, seemingly aware of everything at once. Very clean-shaven, with salt and pepper in his hair. His skin is very smooth and his teeth were straight and snowy. I realized how handsome he is, and how charismatic and telegenic he is. Smooth, gentle, articulate. He seemed thoughtful and genuinely apologetic that the crowd could not go inside–because everyone was disappointed. He looked straight at me (or the camera) several times.
Then he came forward and began shaking hands, working the front two rows. Hands and arms reached out like a waving sea anemone. He kept smiling and greeting, touching and being touched, hearing the coos and fawnings and cheers. I kept shooting until he was too close for the lens.
Then he was within 3-4 feet, right in front of me. Arms reached toward him, everyone leaning forward like tree branches in the wind. He was right there.
I leaned forward and touched that hand, patting it gently. I touched the most famous person in the world. It was an electric moment. Then he pulled back to his handlers, with an embracing smile, waved farewell to everyone, strode inside the building braced by Secret Service.
A moment never forgotten.
~ Craig Shaffer | August 21 2008