Article and photo by Mark Dryfhout
On Aug. 22 at approximately 10:30 a.m., President Barack Obama and Air Force One landed without incident at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. After stepping off the massive American aircraft bearing the president's seal, Obama was greeted by Mayor Byron Brown and his staff, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his three daughters, Congressman Brian Higgins, an excited crowd of roughly 50 locals, an eager congregation of media and numerous security details.
The president's arrival marked the beginning of a large tour in which Obama will give several speeches and discussions about college and its prices. After Obama left the airport, he traveled to the University at Buffalo to share his thoughts and ideas on how he plans to get the government involved in helping students pay the hefty price tag for college.
"It's very exciting," Brown said. "Having President Obama discuss such an important topic for families and students is a great honor. For the president to start the tour here about higher education and affordability means that this community is on his radar."
When the president descended from the belly of Air Force One, a renewed energy filled the crowd, which had been standing for more than an hour in anticipation. Obama shook hands and exchanged conversation with Cuomo, Higgins, Brown and Cuomo's daughters before redirecting his attention to the crowd of people permitted to attend the arrival.
As he approached the cheering citizens, Obama exclaimed, "How are all you people?"
The president shook hands, laughed, conversed and took pictures with the crowd during a short 10-minute window. The crowd consisted of family and friends of the staff involved in making the president's arrival possible. Each individual was handpicked and run through security before being allowed to see the president.
Obama shared the few last moments with other dignitaries before disappearing into his large, black tour bus and leaving the tarmac. A 28-vehicle convoy was arranged for the president upon his arrival, including two tour buses, eight police vehicles, an EMS truck and several other utility vehicles.
After the motorcade was out of sight, the crowd began to file back into the shuttle buses to be taken back to the parking lots, but not before sharing the moments they had with their president.
"It was a great experience," remarked Ronnie Lumpkin of Buffalo. "It was the first time I've seen him. He was really personal, he shook hands, he talked with people and took pictures."
Later on, Lumpkin inquired somewhat in disbelief, "He thought of Buffalo, N.Y., to visit? That's great!"
Though the president only paused for about a quarter of an hour at the airport, the amount of security and preparation that was visible to spectators would let them believe he planned to spend a full day on the tarmac. Everywhere one turned, there was state police, government staff, secret service, military personnel, armored vehicles, police vehicles and emergency equipment within shouting distance. Teams of security agents were even posted on top of several buildings within the immediate vicinity with a commanding view of the surrounding area. One reporter's humorous description portrayed the security coverage surprisingly accurately, "Security here is tighter than my 10-year-old skinny jeans."
For those who have been counting, it's been approximately four years since the president last visited Buffalo.