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Downtown District Coordinator reports on President Obama’s visit to Pioneer Square

Yesterday, in my office at the Downtown Neighborhood Service Center, a few co-locators walked in the door with curious smiles on their faces. They apparently saw the Secret Service walking through Pioneer Square and rightfully guessed that President Obama was going to visit soon.  But where, they wondered. Much time was spent on speculation on their part and they hoped at least to be able to catch a glimpse of him. I started to wonder if I would catch a glimpse.

Later that evening, the media would report that he would make an appearance today at a local bakery in Pioneer Square. Anyone who knew the neighborhood well would have guessed the Grand Central Bakery. Located in the historic Grand Central Building, the Grand Central Bakery serves baked goods, coffee, sandwiches and soups to a busy lunch crowd. And especially ideal on a warm summer day, the outside seating area occupies a part of Occidental Park. 

Since my office is on 2nd and Yesler, two blocks away from the bakery where President of the United States of America will visit shortly, I can attest to the general excitement surrounding this visit. A large police presence is here, as well as barricaded streets, media and a crowd of gawkers. I can say that the excitement is genuine. As I approach the bakery, except for rows of police cars and police, I notice a near-empty Occidental Park, blocked off with yellow police tape. On a regular day, one can witness how the park has been activated with musicians, performance art and art installations. Most recently, the Seattle Square ‘Saturday Market’ has been very well-received throughout the summer, selling trinkets, clothes, with food trucks offering artisanal ice creams and
gourmet burgers. Most people see the park as being turned around and now, for the most part, family-friendly. 

On the periphery, however, many are standing around waiting to catch a glimpse of President Obama. I, too, wanted to join the crowd. Approaching the area with others walking with purpose towards the bakery, there is a buzz and a hope that they don’t miss anything. A helicopter hovers above, adding to the excitement.

Then, at exactly 11:40am, a motorcade arrives and most everyone starts cheering. A boisterous crowd rushes into the street making the police very nervous until they instruct everyone to move back. Cameras are flying overhead with their owners trying to snap a few quality shots. President Obama steps out of his car and there is applause everywhere.
Although I am of slightly above average height, I suddenly feel short as I cannot see anything except for smiling faces and waving hands and gently maneuvering bodies. As I do not personally see him, I hope that the camera I thrust above me will take pictures that will prove that President Obama is in my district on my watch. The only proof
I go away with is that many people own cameras and have fleshy, flailing arms.
And that’s how it was earlier today. The gawkers have left and Occidental Park has returned to normal. Many felt the wait was worth it, even if they didn’t see him, even as they complained about the heat. Notwithstanding, it felt like a real experience, the kind where like-minded people can only feel their way through, not with language, but with a feeling that something was shared and cherished. Pioneer Square was on display to the nation and it put on a good show.  This was a very proud moment that I’m sure the community will remember for a long time.