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Shaking hands with the President



I never thought in my entire life I would get the opportunity to shake hands with the President of the United States, let alone take pictures of the event. Sometimes teaching has its perks. I have a student who works for the CIA and he was kind enough to get me and my nephew security clearance at Moffett Field to watch Air Force One land and meet the President.

Despite lasting only a few minutes, it was quite the experience and is permanently burned into my memory. Getting through security at Moffett field took a while but understandable due the nature of the event. Our first attempt to penetrate Moffett field was immediately thwarted by gate security. They asked for my name and then replied I was not on the list. I told them who my contact was and they said to pull over while they sort this out. After about 5-10 minutes a group of men dressed in black with dark sunglasses and a white coiled cord hanging from their left ear approached my vehicle. One man said “hi I am special agent Brain and I know Dave. You’re guys are good to go. When you get to the gate make sure you look for one of our guys. You name is on our list not the Moffett Field security list”.

We drive to our destinations only to be greeted by a Moffett Field security guard. There was no CIA agent around. I told him what the deal was and he looked at me confused and started calling on his phone. After about 15 minutes, he finally said “you guys are can go”. We get about 50 feet before we get to another Moffett Field security guard and we have to explain the whole thing again. He proceeds to radio in our names. After another 10 minutes or so he gets word back they we can head to the main building.

We jump in line for the next security clearance, which was a lot like the airport, except we didn’t have to take our shoes off. After we get inside, a man approaches my nephew and tries to strike a deal by trading my nephew’s space station pin with a surprise gift. My nephew agreed and the man gave him a nice NASA sticker and let him keep his pin.

Now the wait begins. Everything seemed normal and I was surprised there weren’t more people there. I started to take some test shots to makes sure my exposure was just right. I shot in “al servo” mode so I could capture moving subjects. My ISO was set to 200 just in case I had to shoot in the shadows. I wanted the fastest shutter speed I could get while maintaing good exposure. My goes was to get sharp images.

Just before AF1 landed the presidents motorcade drove by and formed a line on the edge of the tarmac. Before I knew it, people started to saying “there it is, there it is”. AF1 gracefully landed right in front of us and I managed to get a few shots despite the two girls with long hair in front of me. I was getting worried because their hair was flying all around and getting right in the middle of my shots.

AF1 pulled up and opened up its rear-end and began to relieve itself by letting off a dozen press reporters and other VIPs. Now the show began. President Obama jumps out of the front of the plane waving with a big smile. It was like a concert. People were cheering and pushing towards the edge of the barricade. I frantically starting shooting and tried to avoid the swirling split-ends in front of me.

After shaking hands with the mayor of Sunnyvale and Mountain View, the president nearly galloped towards us. Always smiling and shanking everyone’s hand along the way. As he approached me I stuck out my hand and he reached and shook the girl’s hand in front of me. I was denied, but wait, he suddenly looked up and stuck his hand out as to say sorry I missed you the first time. I reached out with my right hand and shook his hand liked I would anyone else and he said thank you. I continued to shoot in high speed mode. I was shooting so much that I could almost create an elapse time sequence. I ran behind everyone and reached up high with my camera and started to shoot away hoping that I would be able to grab a few more shots.

Before you could blink the president hopped in his Cadi and zoomed away to some undisclosed location.

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Christopher O'Hara

About Christopher O'Hara

Musician, photographer, educator, and humor connoisseur.BA Music Engineer Berklee College of Music. MBA San Jose State University. Professional musician, photographer, and teacher. Don't hesitate to reach out to me! Helping people is my passion.

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