Stalking Obama- recap (and finale)

by DaniGirl on February 20, 2009 · 8 comments

in Life in Ottawa

In the end, there is no way I could have resisted the gleeful excitement that was POTUS’s first official visit to Ottawa yesterday. Through the morning, I watched the conversation on twitter, including updates from media types on the buses headed toward the airport to greet Air Force One when it touched down. And how cool is it that the White House was liveblogging the event? Am very impressed with the effort if not the final product!

Obama’s plane touched down just after 10:30, and it wasn’t too long after that that I could no longer contain myself. I read that people were rolling giant snowballs on Parliament Hill out of the fresh, sticky snow to stand on to give themselves a better view, and I couldn’t think of a more perfectly Canadian thing to do.

Unfortunately, by the time I stepped out of the building, pedestrian access to the Hill was already blocked. Eventually, I wormed my way up to the patio of the Elephant and Castle, which conveniently is two or three steps up from Colonel By Drive, giving me a nice view over the heads of the gathering crowds.

It wasn’t much of a wait before the first of maybe a dozen or more Ottawa police cars whizzed by in groups of two with lights flashing, and then two police helicopters got the crowd good and excited. Shortly thereafter, the crowd’s excitement swelled palpably as the motorcade came into view.

Morning motorcade

People cheered and waved, and I couldn’t help but smile at this outpouring of affection. I went back to my office, content that I’d won my bragging rights. I was there.

Later in the day, I was about to head out of the office when I checked the official itinerary one more time and realized the motorcade would be leaving Parliament Hill for the airport just about the same time I would be going home. Chance for second glance, perhaps? Once again, I tried to wander over toward Parliament Hill, and once again the oh-so-firmly-polite OPP declined my passage. Oh well.

I crossed the intersection of Rideau and Sussex as I do at least four, sometimes six or more times every workday, and was surprised at how few people were still milling about. I wandered right up to the barricade and thought I’d hang out for just a couple of minutes, knowing that Beloved was working late and it was up to me to relieve the nanny of the kids. I was just about to move along when I heard one of the OPP say, “Okay, the Mackenzie King bridge is closed now to bus and pedestrian traffic.” Uh huh. Self, I said, you’re not getting home any time soon, so you might as well hang out here and wait for another peek at the motorcade!

I thought about moving down the way toward Colonel By a bit more, closer to where I had been standing earlier in the day, but decided I liked my wide-open clear view as I leaned my elbows on the barricades. I befriended a film student from Concordia, and we shivered and chatted and tried to convince the OPP to give us hints as to when POTUS might drive past. The return of the helicopters clued us in to the fact that his departure was imminent.

Police helicopter on Obama-watch

Look closely, you can see the helicopter door is open. I’m guessing that’s NOT a photographer inside, trying to get a clear shot! And we could clearly see the snipers on the roof of the Langevin Building, too.

Suddenly, there was a palpable ripple not through the hopeful crowd of gathering bystanders but through the police. Small knots of police gathered and conversed urgently, then suddenly fanned out and started moving the barricades around. I looked at my film student friend with raised eyebrows and he said, “I’ll bet they’re turning down Sussex!”

“No way,” I argued. “If they follow the route from this morning, they’ll be turning way over there to get onto Colonel By and head out to the airport.”

He was convinced, though. And just a few minutes later, we found out he was right. We had a lovely clear view up Wellington as the motorcade approached…

31:365 President Obama's afternoon motorcade

… and then turned directly in front of us. I’d been debating whether to try for my best still shots or using the video capture, and in the end switched to video at the last minute. The motorcade cruised past us maybe 10 or 20 feet away, and both Barack Obama and his lookalike in the decoy limo smiled and waved at us. I was completely and utterly gobsmacked to actually be able to see his genuine, happy smile and waving hand, and later crushed when my shivering, crowd-jarred video didn’t catch it. Oh well, I know what I saw, and I earned my bragging rights!

It took me two hours to get home after that. Streets were closed, buses were detoured, and downtown was gridlock. And it was worth every minute! I found out only when I got into my van at the park-and-ride that two minutes after passing by in front of me, Obama actually got out of the motorcade and did some souvenir shopping in the Byward Market, shaking hands with admirers as he went!! (!!!) He bought a moose keychain and some maple cookies for his daughters, and was given an “Obama-tail”, a Beaver Tail made in his honour. (It’s a Canadian thing, my US friends. Just smile and nod politely at the peccadilloes of your starstruck neighbours to the north.)

When I got home, still full of the excitement of the day, Tristan had his own Obama-encounter story to tell. Living due west of the airport, we’re in the flight path for flights arriving from the east. Just before Obama’s arrival at Ottawa International Airport, they brought all the kids in his school out into the yard and formed them into a giant “O” to sing O Canada while Air Force One flew overhead. Is that not the best part of the whole story?

What a day!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathleen February 20, 2009 at 9:28 am

Love the effort on the part of the teachers! O-O-O!
And, what a well told story. I can hear and feel your excitement.
Not only do you make me want to write better, but live up to your levels of enthusiasm.
And vote for you on every computer I pass.
Thanks for all the great blogging. I’m hoping I’ll be hearing from you about how great BlogHer is!

2 Mom on the Go February 20, 2009 at 10:21 am

Wow, you did a great job of capturing the excitement! I like that the teachers found a way to bring the kids in on the day. Reid asked why I was late getting home and I explained that there was extra traffic in order to keep the “boss of our neighbour country” safe. I’ll show her the pics tonight.

3 Chantal February 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm

That is so cute of Tristan’s school. I wonder if he noticed. That would be so cool!

Captcha = sunshine new

4 Jody February 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm

That is pretty darn cool.

Captcha = can- Philler

It’s actually the c with a cedilla but I don’t suppose there’s anyway to get Captcha to recognize that.

5 BeachMama February 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Yes Dani, Tristan’s school is indeed the best part of the story. It is just too bad that they didn’t capture the kids to put on tv.

6 colleen February 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I love your story. My daughter-in-law, who works in the Byward Market, knew something was up by all the security that suddenly appeared. She and her staff hustled outside and she actually shook President Obama’s hand. She was pretty darned excited!

7 raino February 21, 2009 at 12:09 am

so cool! good for you….i would have loved to have gotten down or up to see him. right on!

8 Susan February 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I loved reading this–I wish I had been there. Love the part about Tristan’s school…I hope Obama saw it.

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