It’s that time of year again: Back in September of 2011 my son and I accompanied my wife on a business trip to NYC for the week. It was a great time to be in the city, the weather was cool and the tourist were lite. That is until the UN and the Clinton Initiative meetings both descended on the city. At that point the city got a little nutty with all the street closing, subway volume and general craziness. Luckily for us we spent most of our time near the hotel on the upper westside and Central Park due to his nap schedule and managed to avoid most of it.
The friendly skies: As new parents many things you’ve witnessed as a 3rd party seem scary, REALLY SCARY, like flying with an infant, but we decided to tackle it head on. The flight to NYC (from ATL) 7 days prior had been our son’s first time flying and had gone pretty well. We made sure to book the flights at his nap time, hoping he would sleep the whole time, and had brought practically his entire collection of toys that were now occupying the majority of the aft side overhead storage. We also fed him on takeoff and landing so that the suckling motions would hopefully keep the pressure in his ears balanced. And it all worked well on the first flight.
As we per-boarded our flight home I was standing at the bulkhead door bent over breaking down our travel stroller and without looking up asked the man standing there if this is where I leave the stroller? He said it was fine and as I stood up and gave him an involuntary ocular pat-down I noticed that he was armed. I thought it was a bit odd for an Air Marshal to be so obvious, but shrugged it off as I boarded the plane. Then walking through 1st class I noticed a few more guys that were clearly armed as well. Sitting down with my wife and son I commented that Atlanta must be having an Air Marshal convention and that this flight was about to the safest ever!
As the rest of the flight slowly boarded and got settled in their seats as our son became a bit fussy and the delay in the capacity flight was starting to worry us. We both knew that we can only do so much to calm our son and that nobody, especially us, wanted to hear a screaming baby.. 30 minutes dragged on before we finally pushed back, and our son was balancing on the edge of sleep when the Captain came on the PA:
“(Mic Crackle) Uhhh… this is the, uhhh, Captain speaking. It, uhhh, looks like we are (Crackle).. Being told to, uhhh, hold on the tarmack.
<speaking faster now> We should have an update in 15 minutes.(Crackle)”
Since we pretty much let our 1st class passengers do whatever they want: We were thinking that we we had just dodged a “crying baby” bullet when the brakes came on and the plane ground to a halt, and then the Captains announcement confirmed our wildest fears.
It was just then that the curtains that separated the first class cabin from the rest of us slobs flew open and out stepped an older gentleman in a suit flanked by men and women in suits. He stepped into the coach area and started shaking hands with the passengers. ALL of the passengers, and the flight must have had several hundred people on it. As he got a little closer we were amazed that it was President Jimmy Carter, who lives in GA and we would find out later was on his way home from the Clinton Initiative meetings. When Mr. Carter got to 34E & 34F my wife and I shook his hand and asked if he would mind taking a picture with our son? I had quickly sketched out the plan with my wife before Mr. Carter arrived that she would hold our son up near the president and I would snap a picture. He said that he would be delighted, and as she lifted our son up to be in the frame the 87 year old Mr. Carter leaned forward and snatched our son up for his photo opp.
With the comfortably secure grip of a well-experienced grandfather he held our son, who was quite a load, and chatted with us as I took the picture. “How old is he, 4 months?”, “What is his name?”.. and after I snapped the picture he looked at me “Did you get it?”. My wife and I were both floored. Confirming that I had a good picture I replied “Yes sir, I did. Thank you so much”. Mr. Carter then placed a slight kiss on our Son’s head as he handed him back, a move I’m sure he perfected over many campaigns, and then continued on to greet the rest of the passengers.
This is the first President that I had ever met, and I think no matter your feelings about his time in office, work he has done afterwards or his stance on the Middle East, it was pretty amazing to see him in person and how down to earth he was. Not to mention fit (I said what a load our son was, right?). Even the two guys sitting behind us that we had overheard in the terminal and in their seats with lots of screw “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” talk shook his had and were very complementary.
As Mr. Carter walked back to his seat in first class one of the other passengers asked a Secret Service agent if he did this kind of thing a lot. The agent slightly turned and said “all the time” as she rolled her eyes.
We were framed: When we returned to Atlanta I printed a nice 8”x 10” of the picture and took it into our favorite frame shop (Moog Gallery and Framing) to have it framed for our son’s room. When I showed them the picture thay asked me to tell them the story. Both of the owners thought it was great and said they had the perfect frame in mind, but that it might take a bit longer to get in. I agreed since they had never steered us wrong in the past.
Several weeks later I received a call that our picture was ready and I could come pick it up. As they handed it to me I could not believe it. It turns out that Mr. Carter’s grandson, GA. State Senator Jason Carter, also has his things framed at the Moog Gallery and the owners had called him and asked if he could have Mr. Carter sign the picture of the two if them to our son. Which we hear he happily did.
It now hangs with honor in our son’s room, just to the left of his crib along side the vintage needle point of Bert and Ernie.