Friday, October 24, 2003

A crowd gathered across the street from Pearl Harbor Elementary School yesterday in hopes of catching a glimpse of President Bush.

Kahala residents brave
security to see Bush

The timing of his trip to his
hotel was shrouded in secrecy

President of the United States
 Bush 'impressed'
 Some are impromptu guests
 Bush honors vets' sacrifices
 2nd-grader puts Bush on spot
 Politics left behind at tea
 Isle volunteer greets president
 Bush bypasses protesters
 Some brave security for glimpse
 Stop fits Bush travel pattern

Lois Bruce wasn't about to let President Bush drive through her Kahala neighborhood without waving to him.

"I've seen every president since 1968 who has come here, so I couldn't miss this one," said Bruce, standing barefoot, dressed in a navy muumuu, at the intersection of Kahala and Kalaeloa avenues, not far from the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel where the president spent the afternoon.

"The presidents used to land (by helicopter) in the field of Kahala Elementary School," said 69-year-old Bruce, "and the children would climb the trees in the nearby yards and wave at them."

Bruce said the White House used to give out route maps and times so the whole neighborhood would turn out.

Not anymore.

Yesterday, the president's route was so secret that fewer than a dozen people had gathered along Kahala Avenue an hour before the president's motorcade drove through at about 12:20 p.m. Police stopped motorists at the side roads before Kahala Avenue.

"I'm late for golf," grumbled a white-haired man as he climbed out of his Lexus to watch for the motorcade.

Police radios crackled with directions as police stopped cars driving down Kahala Avenue and diverted them to side roads. One man driving an SUV looked at the two policemen standing in his path and, with a slightly scared look, took his hands off the steering wheel and raised them into the air.

The Kahala hotel, where several presidents have stayed, seemed like a seaside fortress yesterday. Coast Guard boats patrolled the waters offshore. HPD SWAT teams moved in squads along the beach and various walkways and parking lots. Secret Service agents with bomb-sniffing dogs searched knapsacks and stopped cars.

A police helicopter swooped overhead as the president's motorcade neared. Motorcycle police with white ascots and white gloves rushed by two by two as several Secret Service agents sweating in dark suits walked up the street.

Jed Comerford, 39, a former Navy pilot, gathered at the intersection with his wife, Tracy, and Hayden, their 3-year-old son.

"I just wanted to watch the president go by," said Comerford.

With a rush of police and SUVs with flashing lights, the motorcade with the president's black limousine came down Pueo Street and to the hotel.

The president's limousine, with American flags fluttering from its fenders, lumbered like a heavily armored tank as it slowed for the crowd. A familiar face appeared in the dark-tinted window of the passenger's side, grinning and waving.

"He waved at us and I gave him the shaka," said Anthony Pagan, who was working on the golf course. "It was cool."

With the president inside the hotel, the Secret Service stopped anyone who walked or drove near. Hotel guests were stopped and sometimes searched.

Two Japanese women looked bewildered as agents searched their shopping bags and checked their identification against a hotel guest list.

"This has got to be the worst way to start a vacation," said guest Michael Hoffman, who had just flown in from Los Angeles and was now roasting in a convertible as the vehicle check line got longer and longer.


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