Waiting for Air Force One

As part of her internship at The Gazette, Alexandra Connor witnessed the arrival and departure of Air Force One. Photo courtesy of Stephen Mally/The Gazette.

By Alexandra Connor

Year In School: Junior

Major: Journalism and Mass Communication

Internship: News Intern, The Gazette

When it was announced President Donald Trump would be traveling to Cedar Rapids for a rally, I never imagined I would be involved in the coverage as a news intern at The Gazette.

And I wasn’t. At least not in the capacity I was expecting.

My job for the evening consisted of two tasks: be at the airport when Trump arrives and be at the airport when he leaves.

So, as I stood on the tarmac at 5:30 p.m. at the Eastern Iowa Airport, I found myself not having much to do. Air Force One was in sight, but it was also pouring rain. A few feet away from me, separated by just a thin gate surrounding us press, was newly-appointed Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds waiting to greet Trump. She was protected from the downpour by a black umbrella.

Luckily (I am being sarcastic here) both my umbrella and raincoat were in my car and there was no possibility of getting to them. Never again will I make that mistake.

By 6 p.m., Trump had arrived successfully alongside former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and the first part of my job was done. I began to prepare myself for the next three hours of waiting in my car in a parking lot just outside the airport.

But then, as I sat there, more cars began to pull up. Others too, wanted to see Air Force One depart.

So I chatted with them. One man, a lifelong-Democrat from Tiffin, Iowa, talked to me about his love for planes. By the end of the conversation, we were talking about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was trying to pick my brain on who I thought did it.

Another man I talked to, a Trump supporter, also had a love for planes (and the president). In between the president’s arrival and departure, the Cedar Rapids man drove to a local drugstore to get the photos he took of Air Force One printed.

A father and son duo were less interested in Air Force One or even the president, but rather the cargo plane that carried all the government vehicles.

And just like that, 8 p.m. and Trump’s departure came pretty quickly. My article, later posted with the headline “Planes over politics” is one of my favorite stories I’ve written so far. The writing wasn’t spectacular, the reporting wasn’t hard and no obstacles stood between me and doing this article. But the experience, to me, made it great.

As an intern, my emphasis has been on the feature stories: festival coverage, community accomplishment articles, etc. I was expecting this, but what I was not expecting is how much working at a daily newspaper would get me excited for the field after I graduate.

I’ve become a better communicator, a better writer and a better reporter over the last five weeks of my internship and I’m excited to see what the next five weeks will bring.

And to future Greenlee students hoping to do an internship, I have just one piece of advice: Always bring an umbrella.