Anchorage residents had their last chance to see President Obama this morning as his motorcade left the Captain Cook Hotel and headed toward JBER. His presence in downtown caused mixed reactions.
Helen Ash stands on the corner across from the president’s hotel with her friend Carol Campbell, police patrolling in front of her, crowds growing behind her.
“We’re exhausted,” Ash moans. “Tell him that. We’re exhausted of trying to catch him.”
It’s day number three of Obama Watch.
“You know the process. You’ve been on this corner for three days, and you still haven’t seen him, so why did you pick this corner again?” I question.
“You see him very, very quickly. It’s a glimpse. It’s through black glass. They’re going fast,” Ash says.
“So you have seen a sliver.”
“I’ve seen sliver. Not enough to get a picture and to see his face.”
“Not enough to feel satiated, it seems?” I prod.
“Feel satiated?,” she laughs. “I think that’s a bit extreme.”
For Campbell, seeing the president and getting a picture to share with family is a very personal goal.
“My grandmother, my aunt and I pray for him everyday at 7:30. My grandma’s 94, and we do a three-way call and pray for him everyday,” she says. They started at the beginning of his presidency. “We just felt a desire for his well-being and his success. And he’s been very successful, praise God!”
But for others downtown, it’s a bit of a nuisance. Office workers carrying file folders try to cross the street and are turned back by police officers.
“No, we’re not going to be able to get across,” a man says.
“You can’t get to work,” another replies, saying she’ll vouch for him. “You’ve done your best.”
Tourists wave maps at police, trying to get to their departing buses, but they had few options as sidewalks closed for nearly an hour in anticipation of the president’s theoretically imminent departure.
Around the corner, in K Street Convenience Store, Ben Jones is selling coffee and snacks like any other day of the week.
“We haven’t got the chance to feed Obama, but we got to feed the secret service guys. Other than that it really hasn’t caused a lot of disruption. The court system’s been shut down and that’s a lot of our regular customers. Other than that we’ve been fairly steady with where we generally are on our numbers.”
Back on the sidewalk, a guy with a super-powered lens zooms in on roof-top snipers, roaming secret service agents, and curious maids peering out of windows.
Rayna Swanson glances at his camera screen then back to the white tent that shrouds the president’s car. She’s been waiting for six years to see Obama. She had tickets for his first inauguration but it didn’t go as planned.
“We waited for hours in the cold,” she recalls. “With a baby in our arms! And we got jammed up right before the tunnel. The infamous tunnel. So we’re trying to assuage our six years of trauma.”
Carol Campbell fiddles with her phone, hoping the battery will last, then suddenly one of the black cars turns on its lights.
“Oh God,” she utters, breathing fast.
Obama drives by and waves at the screaming crowd and Campbell scores her winning shot!
“My camera worked! I got!” she laughs and screams, showing her friend.
And then she’s gone less than a minute after the President. Back to regular life.
Swanson lingered a bit longer in the moment. “I just want to redo it one more time. Can’t he just come back, one more time? One more look? Oh, it was great.”