Obama lands in South Bend, drives to Elkhart
Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The flight was not listed on the “arrivals” screen in the South Bend Regional Airport, but many people stood in and outside the terminal Monday morning in expectation of the appearance of Air Force One.
Several dozen onlookers gathered in front of a window on the second floor of the airport concourse in the hour before the plane arrived.
Lisa Bruni, 47, of Niles, Mich., was one of them. She was ready with her camera to capture the plane’s landing.
“It’s an historic event, and I wanted to do it,” she said. “I want something to show my grandkids.”
Her husband, who works at Saint Mary’s, was planning on listening for the plane’s passage overhead while he was at work.
The distinctive plane, with the words “United States of America” emblazoned on its side, landed at 11:11 a.m.
Air Force One taxied around the runway before coming to a stop beside a set of stairs several hundred yards away from the terminal.
President Barack Obama exited the plane and descended the stairs, pausing briefly to wave to the members of the media gathered at the stair’s base.
Kathy Liggett, 56, of Mishawaka, Ind., stood next to the train tracks outside the station with a sign that read “Hope” on one side and “President Obama, you give Indiana hope,” on the other. Indiana wasn’t spelled out, but instead was represented by a drawing of the state, colored in with blue marker. Liggett said it was to show that Indiana, which had been a reliably red, or Republican-leaning, state for the past several decades, turned blue in November in support for Obama.
“I wanted to make sure people were here to welcome Obama and show our appreciation for his return to Indiana,” Liggett said.
Liggett, who has a son who is an Iraq war veteran, said she spoke to Obama about mental health screenings for all veterans when he was campaigning at the 4-H Fairgrounds in St. Joseph County.
Obama traveled to Indiana Monday to make a pitch for his approximately $838 billion economic stimulus plan, which is currently awaiting a final vote by the U.S. Senate. Obama chose the nearby town of Elkhart, Ind. as the site to make the case for the passage of the bill because the area has been especially hard hit by the economic recession.
Over the course of an hour, Obama delivered remarks and then answered questions to people gathered in Elkhart’s Concord High School gymnasium.
“It’s good to be back in Indiana,” Obama said, to loud applause. “The last event we had of the campaign was in Indiana, and the first time that I’m traveling outside of the White House to talk about the economy is back in Indiana.”
Elkhart and the surrounding area has been hit hard by the economic crisis, Obama said, with the unemployment rate at 15 percent, compared to 4.7 percent last year.
Obama said he still remembered the stories of people he met from Northern Indiana from when he campaigned in Elkhart six months ago.
“I promised you back then that if elected, I would do everything I could to help this community recover,” he said. “And that’s why I’ve come back to today, because I intend to keep my promise.”
In his remarks, Obama described the bill before Congress and how it would help the economy recover. The proposal would create or save three to four million jobs over two years, Obama said, and will also provide tax relief for 95 percent of American workers.
In Indiana, he said, the plan will create or save 80,000 jobs for the next two years. Obama said the workers in these jobs would rebuild and repair roads like U.S. 31, which passes by Notre Dame.
Obama said the plan also includes investment in clean alternative sources of energy, tax relief for small businesses, student tax credits and expanded unemployment benefits.
Delaying passage of the bill will bring “deepening disaster,” Obama said, as he urged Congress to pass the bill with alacrity.
“Broadly speaking, it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jumpstart our economy and transform this economy for the 21st century,” he said.
Obama took questions on the recovery plan from the audience for more than 30 minutes, addressing topics such as how the plan would help Hoosiers specifically, how schools would be improved, how the bill would encourage “green” jobs and whether he would have a beer with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity. As Obama took questions, a woman wearing a “Notre Dame football” sweatshirt sat in the screenshot behind him.
Air Force One flew over Notre Dame on its way back to Washington, D.C. at 2:45 p.m. Monday, turning sharply south as it passed east over DeBartolo Quad.