We were waiting to hear for months. Months, on pins and needles. And then, about a week before we were scheduled to descend on the nation’s capital, we got word that we caught a break.
We scored a coveted VIP tour of the West Wing of the White House.
Yep, the West Wing. Not the East Wing that is more widely frequented containing the President’s living quarters. The West Wing; the workplace. Like the show.
And…It. Was. Awesome.
There were strict ground rules. No photography inside the building. No photography in the Rose Garden. We all went through background checks. Metal detectors. No handbags. But finally, the day arrived.
And it was hot. We were ‘glistening’ in the humidity as we awaited entry. But as we walked up, we just kind of took it all in. This is where President Obama goes to work everyday. It was kind of surreal.
The West Wing was smaller than I expected. Admittedly, the whole White House was. The way it is shot on television and on movies, it seems so much more expansive. Before we walked in, we took a few snapshots of the Seal through the doorway, which was the only permitted option. Just after the main entryway, we were confronted with the ‘jumbo’ pictures of POTUS, which are changed out regularly. But there was one that is ever so familiar that we were told is never changed: The picture from the Situation Room from the evening when Osama bin Laden was killed. We studied all of the pictures on the wall from recent events and summits from around the world.
Next, we got to see it. The Situation Room. It was so weird, thinking about all of the history, all of the presidents that have held meetings there. The Joint Chiefs. The Vice President. All of it.
We were walking the halls that the Executive higher ups walked (and I am sure at some point, ran) daily. And then, we got to stop and peer in at the most awesome site of all: The Oval Office. It was just like the pictures. The Resolute Desk, the high ceilings, the furniture placement, all of it. Before the tour, I had always thought (as I am sure many did) that the Oval Office was in the main part of the White House…Clearly, that was not the case. I wish I could have taken pictures throughout the tour, but not more than that moment. But being arrested and held by the federal government wasn’t on the itinerary that day, so I stared, committing as much as I could to memory.
As we made our way through the West Wing, we then headed out to the Rose Garden. To the exact path that President Obama heads to press conferences in the garden. We saw where the helicopters land. It was so incredibly dope!
As we were outside we were not-so-secretly hoping the helicopter would land. That President Obama would come up and shake our hands and take a picture. Or maybe that FLOUTUS and the girls would peek out the window and wave. But, alas, the timing was off.
Our last stop was the Press Briefing Room, the one place we could take pictures inside. It, too, was smaller than it looks on television. The magic of angles, I guess.
We took pictures in the briefing room. Pics just outside the door to the West Wing with the door open to catch a glimpse of the Seal. It was super humbling to think that President after President worked in the very place we had just visited. I definitely want to check out the main part of the White House, but I wouldn’t have traded our VIP tour for anything. It was pretty epic.