While covering Wednesday’s memorial ceremony for the victims of the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood, I was selected to represent the Herald as a pool reporter in the White House Press Corps.
It gave me the opportunity to cover President Barack Obama’s visit to Fort Hood from touchdown to takeoff. What follows are some of my notes from that day.
10:40 a.m.: Through the gate at West Fort Hood. It’s my first time seeing this part of post. At first, I am surprised there isn’t more security in preparation for the president’s visit, but as we get closer to the airfield, it changes. The closer we get, the more armed military police we see. We have our identification checked by Secret Service agents at two checkpoints before we are off-loaded at Larkin terminal.
10:49 a.m.: Inside the terminal, we show our IDs again and are asked to leave all our equipment on the floor for a security check. I see a military police officer with a German shepherd moving toward our belongings. The dog is pulling at the leash and looks very excited about his job today.
10:50 a.m.: We are taken to a large, flatbed truck that serves as a platform to view the landing. Herald photographer Catrina Rawson points out the snipers on the roof of the terminal behind us. We watch them watching us as we wait for the president’s plane.
11 a.m.: We meet with our press liaison for the day. We are told things will move fast once the plane lands. Catrina and I will be folded into the White House traveling press corps for the remainder of the president’s visit.
“If we tell you to move, you need to move,” the liaison said, emphasizing the importance of staying on schedule. “If the Secret Service tells you to move, move.”
11:30 a.m.: Air Force One lands, engines roaring. We are ushered under one of its massive wings as the traveling press spills out a ramp near the back. We get there just in time to see the president and first lady make their way down the ramp. Both look very somber as they shake hands with Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, his wife, and Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. There’s brief conversation, but I can’t hear it over the plane’s engines.
11:49 a.m.: The motorcade passes by the 49th Transportation Battalion’s Headquarters. I realize we are driving through the area where the shooting occurred. There are flowers outside the building, and cars in the parking lot. It is a stark reminder of why we are all here, and tempers the excitement of covering a presidential visit.