Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Hamilton turns out for president

Visit by Bush thrills residents

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — When the president comes to your hometown, you go out to greet him — even if the windy air is frigid, even if you lack a ticket, even if you probably won't be able to see him.

[photo] President Bush (center) addresses an audience at Hamilton High School on Tuesday morning.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        Lured by the first presidential visit here since Harry Truman a half century ago, Hamiltonians by the hundreds thronged streets Tuesday morning long before President Bush — accompanied by other high-ranking federal officials — spoke at Hamilton High School and signed a $26.5 billion education bill.

        With tickets required for the gymnasium signing, many spectators of all ages hoped that Mr. Bush would arrive by car, so they stationed themselves along the corners around the school on Eaton Avenue, on the city's west side.

        But minutes after 9 a.m., they heard a loud motor noise coming from above — a large helicopter. Then two, then four. Then two more from the west. They all landed on the football field, blowing away clouds of snow.

        Jeff Newman, 36, of Fairfield Township, grabbed his 6-year-old son, Max, and ran toward the school.

        “I just want him to see a sitting president,” Mr. Newman said. “Then we'll go home and watch the president on TV in the coming months and remember this thrill.”

        Standing at Station No. 1 on Brookwood Avenue behind the high school, Hamilton resident Doug Edwards, 43, used a boom box to listen to the live radio broadcast of the president's speech while his wife, Amy, kept their dog on a leash and their three young sons nearby.

        “It's a historical event,” Mr. Edwards said, as Will, 10, Tristan, 5, and Jack, 3, listened.

        Mr. Edwards, who wore a button depicting Mr. Bush, said, “We agree with almost everything the guy says. In '99, we sent 20 bucks to George Bush's campaign fund. It's probably the best 20 bucks we ever spent.”

        There were some downtown businesses that had hoped to catch the president's eye if he came by motorcade.

        Jocko's Chicken and Seafood restaurant proclaimed: “Presidents Eat Free.”

        Across the street from the school, firefighters had stretched a sign across the front of their station: “HFD Welcomes President Bush.”

        Hamilton residents Andy Wyatt, 36, and Adam Stitsinger, 20, watched in awe as the helicopters touched down on the football field.

        “Seeing the man who leads this country is better than seeing a movie star,” Mr. Wyatt said.

        “I missed him,” Mr. Stitsinger said.

        “Well, so did I, but just seeing the helicopters was worth coming out here,” Mr. Wyatt said.

        Greg Spicer, 42, a former Los Angeles resident who now lives in Hamilton, said he has seen presidential motorcades in California, but none equaled the dramatic arrival of the presidential helicopters.

        “I'm listening to it on the radio while I'm watching it,” he said, headphones in his ears.

        Steve Brezinski, 47, of Hamilton, left satisfied, with his own story to tell.

        “We were sitting in a parking lot, waiting, and the Secret Service stopped and asked us if we had any weapons,” he said. “We said no. Then I got to shake the agent's hand.

        “This is way too cool. Right now, Hamilton is the center of the world.”

        Reporter Janice Morse contributed.

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