Thursday, August 11, 2016

That Day We Met the President (Unexpected Activists- Part 5)

Here it is. The post you have been waiting for. (Is anyone still out there reading this? Bueller, Bueller?) I know, I know. It's part FIVE. (In my defense, I don't like long blog posts. Reading them OR writing them. So I apologize in advance that this one is a bit long. Part 6 just seemed like toooooo much.) You've made it all the way from Part 1 through Part 4. And now we're ready to meet the President of the United States of America.

Thursday July 14, 2016
We woke up early that morning after only a few hours of sleep. Brian and I packed and got dressed and we then attempted to wake Beni. Normally, she is up at the crack of dawn and trying to pull me out of bed. But I swear, whenever we HAVE to be somewhere, she sleeps in. After some coaxing, and a reminder that she got to wear her new sparkly dress, sparkly shoes, and sparkly accessories, she allowed Brian to dress her while she laid there. He even brushed her teeth with in-bed service. We left the room sometime after 6:30am and grabbed a cab to Penn Station. 

Cab ride to Penn Station

At the train station, we found a Dunkin Donuts (I've missed you, DD coffee) and grabbed some coffee nirvana for me and some munchkins for the munchkin. And us too, of course! Public transportation, I've missed you too. Although, I realize it's easy to miss you because right now it's not cold, raining, and something I HAVE to do. Every. Single. Day. But it was incredible to be back on the East Coast and experiencing the hustle and bustle of a "real" city. 

After a short wait and some people watching, we boarded our train. Somehow we ended up on the quiet car, but it ended up being a blessing. One man was asked to leave after talking on his cell phone and I told Abeni he was kicked off the train car because he was too loud. (That was technically true AND was effective in keeping her quiet the whole way. Score one for Mama!) We all fell asleep with the gentle motion of the train and the sound of the wheels. But not before I posted this message on Facebook to my friends:

After arriving at the DC train station, we headed to a hotel near the ABC taping venue. Brian's hospital had sent a communications expert (thanks Mike!) to provide him with guidance about what he could and could not say (nothing about legislation since B was a state of TX employee.) We had lunch, freshened up in Mike's room, and all left in a rush to make it to the venue. 

Arriving at the DC train station

Once at the venue, we waited outside while the Secret Service swept the theater for security. We entered through metal detectors and they did a quick search of my purse and Beni's koala backpack. It was loaded with activities that would hopefully keep her entertained while Brian and I were at the taping. Once inside, we waited for quite a while longer. I sent this update to my Facebook friends. 

And then, without any warning (for a last minute potty break), Brian and I were ushered to our seats. I called out to Mike, "Take good care of our precious treasure!" Brian was seated in the front row and I was seated directly behind him. David Muir came in and talked to us for a while, and then THE PRESIDENT walked in. I'm trying not to use the word "surreal" too much, but that's the overwhelming feeling that filled me. 

That's Brian's big head there on the left. 

After two-hours, David Muir said- this is the last question- and it was over. Brian was disappointed he did not get to ask his question. Then the President went around the room to shake hands. Brian got a quick handshake. Everyone had a few seconds with POTUS as he walked around the circular room. Brian urged me to move from my second row seat and move into his path so I could meet him. I tried to maneuver into his path but the Secret Service agents were human obstacles.  

Brian chatting with David Muir, ABC newscaster

And then, there he was. The President of the United States was looking right at me. 
Me: (grabbing his hand) It is such an honor to meet you, Mr. President. 
Obama: Thank you.
Then there was a pause. I assumed he would keep moving on to the next person, so I didn't say anything else. But he didn't move on! 
Obama: So, what is your name?
Me: (very animated) I'm Kathianne Williams. My husband, Brian Williams, (I gestured to Brian behind me. B had strategically placed himself to get a photo of me with the POTUS.) was the surgeon who took care of the policemen that were shot in Dallas. 
Obama: (to Brian) Oh hey man! (shaking B's hand and then grabbing B's tie) Yeah, he dresses like a surgeon.

And then, miraculously, there was another pause. I had NOT planned anything to say. I wasn't even sure I would get to meet the President. So, I don't know WHERE this came from, because I am usually kicking myself later for not saying something "better." But I opened my mouth, and this came out of nowhere:

Me: (grabbing his hand and pulling Obama even closer) I just want to tell you, that when you were ignaugurated, I wrote a letter to my biracial daughter. I wrote to her that I was so happy that she would never know a world in which only white men were president. 
Obama: Thank you. Please tell her I said hello. She must be what? Eight years old now?
Me: No, five.

And then he moved on to the next person. I hope he put it together that I wasn't confused on my timeline; it was just that I wrote the letter to my daughter before she was even born. Because I had to do A LOT of waiting for her, remember? And do you remember the blog post I wrote several years ago about my letter to Beni on his inauguration? (Please follow the link and read that one.) Looking back now, it all feels magical. I wrote the letter to her in January of 2009, published the blog post in January of 2013, and then met the President and told him about it in July 2016. It was a full-circle moment. A moment when everything seems to fall into place and the Universe is in order.  

Can you tell from this photo that I am squeezing his hand kind of hard? 
I was holding his one hand with two of mine at one point. Ha! 
Brian said that the President wasn't going anywhere with my grip.  

Meanwhile, Brian was saying to me, "I thought I had to be quick to take the photo, but you were talking to him forever! After a while, I just held the button down and took a burst of photos." Sadly, we didn't get a photo of Brian with the President, and he didn't really get to say much to him. He's still a bit bummed about that. Frankly, I am just amazed at myself that I thought on my feet and took advantage of the moment. Yippee!!! 

We then collected Beni from Mike (she was alive and happy and had eaten a lot of candy and played with the young relatives of Eric Garner). It was a rush to get back to his hotel for our bags, then into a car for a long drive to BWI airport. Then it was a long flight back to Dallas. We landed at Love Field, but our car was at DFW (from the NYC flight) so we had to take a car service back to DFW. Then drive home from there.  

All in all, it was a VERY looooong day. So long, in fact, that the memories we made will last a lifetime.

Please stay tuned for 2 more posts. One is a final reflection on the events from my point of view. The other is an interview of Brian H. Williams, MD. He was interviewed by Don Lemon of CNN, Ari Shapiro of NPR, and Gayle King of CBS, but he has not faced the toughest interviewer yet! Kathianne Williams of Nourish.Create.Bloom!!! Feel free to write any questions you might have for Brian in the comments below. 

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