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Thursday, September 5, 2013

POTUS in Stockholm

It was a big deal for a sitting US president to visit Stockholm.  Such a big deal that it has actually never happened before!  There was much chatter and preparation about his visit.  Many city streets were shut down and people were warned about not trying to drive in Stockholm on Wednesday, 4 September.
I was excited even though the chances of actually getting near the delegation were slim and none.  His schedule was not widely released and of course, could change at a moment's notice.  We knew the places he'd be but not the times.
It was a spectacularly beautiful day here in Stockholm which was so nice!  Our fair town is especially dazzling when the sun is out and the water is sparkling!  At lunch, I took our dog for a walk through the city, curious as I was to see what was happening.  It was so quiet!  There was a significant drop in traffic and for me, on foot with my dog on a lovely day, it was fantastic!  I took a route that took me reasonably close to the American Embassy and the Ambassador's residence.  The police presence was quite noticeable and many streets were indeed blocked off to traffic.  On foot, it was no problem.  I sat on a corner for awhile, thinking that maybe they'd be on the move from the embassy or residence soon!  Then I realized how stupid this plan was!  At least it was warm and sunny!  I moved on the area of the synagogue and the Raoul Wallenberg memorial, where he was definitely making a stop.  Another police presence, police tape and lots of activity was stirring. I waited again, for just a little while but alas, eventually had to get back to work.  I had resigned myself to simply enjoying that President Barack Obama was in my town even though I wasn't going to see him.
Then in the later afternoon, I got a phone call from a friend whose husband works at the Royal Technical Institute, where Obama was making a stop.  She said that her husband had just called and that she should come over.  The Institute is close to church so when she asked if I wanted to meet her, I figured, why not.  I took the 10 minute walk, met up with them, and then waited.  I had an evening meeting so again, had kind of resigned myself to not being there when he arrived.  Additionally, we had chosen a spot that we thought would provide good viewing but in the end, again, you never know.  Even so, it was fun being there.  We chatted with one of the police officers and noticed his badge.   So cool to see the flags of Sweden and the US!  The crowd, the police presence, the helicopter flying overhead, the anticipation...it was special!  And then, all of the sudden, after the relative calm, some movement began!  And then, all of the sudden, the vehicles with DC and Maryland license plates came through.
Notice the US license plate
Police vehicles and other armored cars with heavily armed passengers came through.  And then, the President's car arrived!  The Beast as it is affectionately known, sporting an American flag and a Swedish flag, drove 2 meters in front of me!  I waved frantically to our President, caught a glimpse of him from inside the car and could see him waving back!  It was a thrill to actually see this parade!  The last vehicle to come through was another huge one with soldiers armed with giant machine guns sitting in the back.  The Security around this situation was absolutely incredible.
I had to leave in order to get to my meeting.  My friends stayed and got an even better view of him on his way out.  Click here to see Sandra's blog on the day.
I was on a high for the rest of the day.  Why did seeing President Obama bring me such a thrill?  I guess it's just not every day that your President is with in 2 yards of you, especially when you live in a foreign country.
His visit was well-received.  I felt closer to home while he was here.  It was neat to see all the support, see the American flags, and just know, that many in my town were focused on my President's visit.