1992 – the Year President George H.W. Bush Shook My Hand by Happenstance
Hubby Darrell snapped this photo of President Bush while jumping in the air, above a crowd, with daughter Stephanie’s Instamatic camera in hand. His beloved Nikon cameras were at home because … we were on a road trip.
We were driving to Nevada, Mo., on highway 44. It was daughter Stephanie’s freshman year of college, and we were headed to her dorm.
We had two teens and suitcases stuffed in the back seat of our car. Windows down. Radio blaring away.
In the middle of the usual teen debate on which radio station to listen to – country music or rock music – we heard a tidbit of news, “President Bush would make a campaign stop at the Springfield airport!”
Screech! Detour! Darrell turned our car around and headed to the airport.
We were not the first. A huge crowd gathered at the airport to see 41 that day. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day in the Ozarks.
When we arrived, Air Force One was parked on the tarmac, looking presidential.
There was already an expectant crowd waiting to see the President and First Lady depart Air Force One. People stood three-rows deep, cordoned off behind ropes.
Everyone was smiling as they politely elbowed their way forward to be in front, constrained only by security ropes.
I, myself, was maneuvering to nudge and weasel forward as we waited for the President.
Albeit, everyone was as eager to see 41 and shake his hand as I was. Nobody in the crowd budged an inch to make room for me.
My attempts to inch forward a row could be likened to busting through a military barricade.
I wanted to shake the hand of our beloved President
When at last I heard the President’s voice, I jumped and screamed. The louder Herbert Walker’s voice grew and the nearer he came to where I was standing, the more jumping and screaming I did.
I heard him, but I couldn’t see him behind the crowd. I stretched my hand forward as far as humanly possible, hoping he would see my hand and shake it.
Stephanie later likened my actions to a teenager at a rock concert.
Then I heard the warm, honey dripping voice of Barbara Bush as she walked and greeted the crowd, steps behind the President. I went ballistic.
“Barbara! Barbara!” I screamed, jumping, hoping to get a glimpse of her.
I propelled my body forward with every ounce of bounce I had, hoping not to tumble on top of the people in front of me.
My unseen hero
Suddenly, the nicest thing in the world happened to me. Someone unseen in the crowd in front of me grabbed my wrist, pulled my hand forward, and plunked it into the President’s hand.
That’s how I touched greatness.
I have no idea who this stranger was in the front row, but I can still feel his warm hand wrap around my wrist as he pulled it forward.
I imagined him as anxious to shake the President’s hand as I was but through kindness, he gave that opportunity to me.
No knowing who it was, I never got to thank him.
The Impossible Became Possible
Shaking the President’s hand was about as impossible as getting his photo. The President was flanked by Secret Service Agents, newspaper photographers, TV camera crews, and the crowd. It was impossible to get a photo third row back.
But Darrell, a seasoned action and editorial photographer, pulled a sage photographer’s trick and turned himself into a human tripod. He raised his arms to tower above his head, aimed, and snapped.
Then he jumped and at the apex of his jump, he snapped more photos.
Of course he couldn’t look through the viewfinder with his camera above his head. There was no way to see what he was capturing, let alone compose a photo.
He aimed best he could and snapped a complete roll of film in high hopes he would get one, good photo, a photographer’s dream.
Surprise! Photo Prints of 41
Imagine our delight when we developed that little roll of film from my daughter’s point-and-shoot camera. Sure, we had photos of the tops of people’s head, but in the mix, photos of beloved President George Herbert Walker Bush.
My hand became golden the day I shook the hand of Bush 41. I didn’t want to wash it ever again. I felt like what I imagine a teen girl feels at a rock star’s concert.