“I understand he’s the president, but all this?”
That sums up my thoughts as I sat at the intersection of Eastern Avenue and Russell Road at 10:30 a.m. March 21 and watched dozens of police cars and motorcycles getting into position for President Obama’s arrival. I was en route to McCarran International Airport as part of the press contingent covering the president’s three-hour visit to the Valley. The Secret Service had come six days in advance to make sure the president got safely to Boulder City and back. In my frustrated-commuter mindset, it all seemed a little obsessive to me.
But two hours later, I stood on the tarmac and watched Air Force One land. The hair on my arms stood on end. So much for cynicism.
The door opened; the president emerged; he passed just a few feet away from me. Yes, I felt a sense of awe. Then he and his party jumped into two SUVs and headed off to the Copper Mountain Solar Facility for his speech about our alternative-energy future.
We stayed at the airport, admiring the beauty of Air Force One as it awaited the president’s return. A reporter remarked that we were probably in the third-most secure place in the U.S., trailing only Obama’s motorcade and the White House. Armed guards patrolled the runway at the rear of the aircraft, and hidden snipers kept watch from nearby rooftops.
The motorcade returned shortly before 3 p.m. Within a few minutes, the stairway was rolled away and the plane was off to New Mexico for the president’s next stop.