November 21st, 2017A Day at the White House
Turkey Pardon and Marine One flight
by Evan Golub
President Trump with National Thanksgiving Turkey "Drumstick" after granting his pardon.
You can zoom in and out as well as click & drag the image to see the surroundings.
On Tuesday, November 21st, President Donald Trump was scheduled to hold his first "pardoning" ceremony for a National Thanksgiving Turkey. The previous Friday, I applied for a day pass to cover the upcoming event and was selected. After heading into DC early to avoid the bulk of rush hour traffic it was time to check in at the Northwest Gate to the White House grounds, located on Pennsylvania Avenue. This involved an identification check, getting my day-pass badge (which is also an access-control smart card) that needed to be worn at all times, and going through security. Once completing that, I headed up the North Lawn driveway, past the "Pebble Beach" press stand-up location, and into the press area of the West Wing.
As a day-pass holder, I set my cameras and laptop down in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, one of the two places where we can wait for the day's events (the other being the press kitchenette area). While the event itself was not scheduled to begin until 1:00pm, the preset time for the pardoning ceremony (the time when credentialed media are able to bring equipment such as ladders, tripods, and large camera gear out to the event location, in this case the White House Rose Garden) was scheduled for 10:30am. Since I planned to set up a medium-sized stepladder so that I could position myself behind (and above) the first row of journalists along the rope line, to avoid my 360° camera blocking someone standing behind me if I had been right up against the ropes, I went out for the preset.
A lectern was set up for the president at the west end of the Rose Garden, which made for easy pre-visualization of the view from the available set-up locations. However, one of the challenges in selecting a location from which to photograph the pardoning itself was that there is no way to know for sure just where the president would stand at the table that was arranged for the turkey, or in which direction he would be looking. Once in position it can be difficult and disruptive to move to a different location, and not feasible to take your stepladder with you if you have one, so it felt best to choose a single position and plan to be there for the entire event. I opted for a position that was to the right of the main media head-on riser but not as far forward along that side of the ropes as the cut riser was located.
As the time of the event drew close, journalists assembled for the "final gather" at the North Doors of the Palm Room. From there we were lead through the Palm Room and back into the Rose Garden to get into final positions for the ceremony. After final set-up, including actions such as exposure and white balance checks, and as guests took their seats, we then waited for President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and their son Barron Trump to exit the Oval Office for the ceremony. The ceremony began with President Trump speaking from the lecturn, and continued with him moving to the table where the National Thanksgiving Turkey was presented, and ceremonially pardoned. After the ceremony, it was then time to head back to the briefing room where I processed and captioned the photographs that I took during the ceremony. Finally, I uploaded them to my news outlet using the recently-installed (May 2017) press wi-fi network and awaited the next event of the day.
Later in the afternoon, President Trump and his family were scheduled to depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews (and from there, continue on to West Palm Beach, Florida). Since the weather was good, the trip to Joint Base Andrews would take place on Marine One. The media were escorted out to the driveway around the South Lawn to a roped-off area to the west of the doorway from the ground floor of the Residence. A Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopter, one of three helicopters that flew together towards the Washington Monument until this one broke off from the group, arrived and landed on pads placed on the South Lawn. Soon after, the president and his wife and son exited the Residence to board the helicopter, whose designation then changed to Marine One. Marine One then took off and headed towards the Washington Monument where it was soon rejoined by the other two helicopters, en route to Joint Base Andrews.
We were then directed to head back towards the press area in the West Wing. Once there, I gathered my things and headed back out through the Northwest Gate, placing my day-pass credentials into a drop-off box before the guard would unlock the gate for me to exit.