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FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2007
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Reporter reacts: ‘You could have pinched me’

By Tiffeny Hurtado
thurtado@decaturdaily.com · 340-2440

I’ve never seen so many police officers in my life.

That is what I told Daily Chief Photographer Gary Lloyd as we arrived at Signature Flight Support at Huntsville International Airport.

It didn’t matter who you were, or who you knew, you weren’t getting within shouting distance of the president of the United States until you got checked, rechecked and then checked again by security.

Secret Service, Alabama State Troopers, SWAT and the Huntsville Police Department made their presence known, as I joined the rest of the media assembled outside, waiting to be allowed in.

I was given a nifty White House Press Pool Pass and stepped into the organized chaos of the waiting area inside the building.

I knew it was serious when I saw a sniper crawling up a ladder to get in position on the roof.

Security

Our camera bags and purses were given the once over by a friendly, but all-business German shepherd. Then it was time to be scanned by security.

Before I could say, “Round’em up,” I was in the herd of reporters and cameramen, walking on the Tarmac to the aptly-named “press pen.”

Officials and dignitaries milled about under the watchful gaze of the Secret Service.

I wasn’t the only one excited about the idea of seeing the president. Veteran reporters seemed downright giddy.

Air Force One dropped out of the sky and landed as the crowd stared.

It was as if none of us had seen an airplane before. We all had, of course, but this was the president’s plane, the “Cadillac of aircraft.”

The stairs dropped out and down came the serious-looking staffers and officers with their personal digital assistants and cell phones.

The presidential entourage loaded into the convoy of black sport utility vehicle as everyone looked to the stairs for Bush.

He emerged with a big smile and wave, flanked by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and
U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville.

You could have pinched me.

Was I at Washington Dulles International Airport?

Was I really seeing the leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief?

I came out of my stupor, realized where I was and the assignment I had to do.

It was a quick hello and then a quick goodbye as the president stepped into his black presidential limo and rode off, followed by the convoy of staffers and the national press.

“Wow,” I said.

I think many others had the same word on their lips.

Athens Mayor Dan Williams said it best though.

“That was better than going to the fair.”

Hurtado is a senior in journalism at Troy State University and is an intern at The Daily.

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