Our young family, ca. 1992, was given tickets through a Congressional office for a White House tour. I'm a native Washingtonian, but had never been in the presidential mansion. This was not not a tour opened to the general public where you stand in line and buy tickets (do they still do that?), but a bit more lengthy and comprehensive. Our guide was a Secret Service agent. My kids were all in elementary school and George H. W. Bush was President. #41.
Clearly, they were a bit surprised to see us in that room, and wanted to hurry him past us to get him outside and into his awaiting vehicle. But, he would have none of that. He walked around to us, greeted us and expressed that he hoped we were enjoying the tour while shaking hands.
I leaned down to my kids and said, "He's the President."
Gail remembers, "some men in suits coming down the steps and
making a path. Followed by more men in suits, I was starting to wonder
what was happening. Then I saw President Bush in the middle of all the
men. He stood out because he was taller than the others, a big smile,
and we all gasped, we just weren't expecting to see him. Then he
stopped to greet some in our tour group. I was holding Rachel's hand,
picked her up so she could see him (then later explain who he was). I
think that he would have shaken everyone's hand if he was not being
encouraged to move along by all the men. Then he was gone and we were
all so excited that we got to see our President!"
My son Nathan, who is our oldest and would have been about eleven at the time says, "We
were walking down a hall. I was near the front of the group and didn’t
know who it was until he was past me. He shook hands with people behind
me. I remember he was tall."
It all took maybe a minute. Then he was whisked away to some other location where he was needed, solving, no doubt the country/world's ills. But, that he would stop to welcome us and shake a few hands said something to me about this kind, gentle man, at the time the most powerful man in the world. We've heard so much of him the past few days. I have no problem believing the eulogies.
He was the last of the greatest generation to lead our nation. Tall, indeed, in many ways.
After President Bush exited, our tour guide looked at us and in amazement said, "That never happens". I'm glad I was there when it did.
RIP, Mr. President.