The call came at 10pm on a Sunday night at home. “How soon can you get to the White House”? Reuters had got the urgent call that President Barack Obama was due to make a statement within 30 minutes. It had to be something big to bring the press back so late on a weekend night. Even if I dropped everything now and raced down there, would I be too late?
I was there in 14 minutes – a new personal best, from my home three miles away. Running through White House security gates with my shoe laces still untied, I was thinking that I hadn’t made it in time for whatever the big news was. The scene outside the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address was familiarly quiet, with a couple uniformed Secret Service officers and their squad car.
Inside the press briefing room, wire and newspaper photographers started filtering in, showing varying states of preparedness but all wondering the same question. Why are we here?
In the U.S. TV network booths, a closed circuit live shot from the East Room of the White House showed lighting technicians, cameramen and producers readying the Presidential lectern for remarks. They were scrambling faster than I had seen, and these guys are always pretty slick.
After 20 minutes, a tight group of five photographers were led through the quiet night by staff up to the state floor of the White House, waiting for President Obama to deliver a statement. It was there that I glimpsed the words flashing on the teleprompter that I won’t forget any time soon. President Obama was about to declare Osama bin Laden had been killed.