By Gary Hershorn
There I was on Saturday, September 11, 1993 waiting for the U.S. Open women’s tennis final to start in New York when I received a call from my manager at the time, Larry Rubenstein, that I had to return to Washington the following night as soon as the men’s final was finished to help cover what he said was a big event Monday morning. “There is going to be an historic handshake and you need to be there so just get back to DC,” he said.
Word had come that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were going to attend the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord with President Clinton on the back lawn of the White House. I was told to do whatever I needed to in order to get out of New York on Sunday night after the men’s final and be at the White House at dawn Monday morning.
It was a great honor to be told by my boss that I would be the Reuters photographer on the main camera platform in front of the stage where the signing was taking place but before that happened, I had two tennis finals to photograph and make sure I actually arrived back in Washington on Sunday night before I could allow myself to start thinking about how I wanted to capture the historic moment.
For two days all I thought about was what would happen if the tennis final went five long sets and on Sunday night I missed my flight back to DC. How would I ever accept missing what was expected to be the biggest handshake in Washington since Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shook Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s hand with President Carter on the front lawn of the White House during their peace treaty signing in March 1979.
As I remember 20 years ago, Steffi Graf won the women’s title, Peter Sampras took care of Cedric Pioline in straight sets to win the men’s championship, the car service I hired to take me from the tennis center to La Guardia Airport worked perfectly, the flight wasn’t cancelled and I walked into my apartment about 11 p.m. Now came the fun part, two hours of getting all the equipment I needed ready for the morning event before getting a few short hours of sleep before the big event.