Thursday, December 6, 2018

Another George H.W. Bush Memory

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 11:44 AM

There have been so many stories from all sides of every aisle reflecting favorably on  the person of the late President George H.W. Bush. I’ll add one:

In 1991 or so, President Bush came to Memphis on some mission, governmental or political or mixed, and landed on FedEx turf, emerging to meet a large crowd of welcomers in a hangar. I managed to be in that crowd and got close to the rope line so as to get a good snapshot of him.

When Bush had got to a point more or less in front of me, I raised my camera, a 35-millimeter sort, to my eye and prepared to press the shutter. The President, observing me two or three ranks back. and imagining me no doubt to be there as a plain citizen, not a news person, interrupted the conversation he was having at the rope line and raised his arms, palms to either side, waving his arms outward in a gesture meant to tell the crowd to move aside, leaving me a good shot-line. Simultaneously, he offered one of the most pleasant smiles imaginable, not the mindless grip-and-grin sort public figures have in such ample stock but one of eye-twinkling complicity (or so it seemed to me).

Just as I pressed the shutter of the camera, the old film-roll sort, I heard the tell-tale sound of the camera’s motor, telling me that I had taken my last shot with that roll and the film was beginning its automatic rewind. President Bush must have heard that whir, too, or perhaps merely read and translated my stricken expression. In any case, he clearly knew what had happened, and his kindly look transformed into one of obvious compassion with my predicament, culminating, seconds later, with a wink and a "so-it-goes" shrug..

That striking display of empathy is what I took away from that day in the hangar, not a photograph but a moment that still remains in my memory as a mini-portrait of the man.

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