For local media, it was the third stakeout at Southwest Florida International Airport — including a visit to Arcadia in October 2009 — to see President Barack Obama arrive and depart. Obama’s first visit came in February 2009 when he had a town hall at the Harborside Event Center.
The mood was more somber this time because of the shooting that occurred in Colorado early Friday morning.
Obama descended from Air Force One alone just after 10 a.m., and barely waved. As he went back up the ramp at about 11:45 a.m., almost two hours earlier than planned, the image the press corps was left with was him walking up, again alone, head bowed.
A scheduled campaign trip to Orlando was canceled so Obama could return to Washington.
Cape Coral Police Chief Jay Murphy said he was permitted to pose for a photo with the president at the Harborside Event Center just before Obama returned to his motorcade for his return trip to the airport.
Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker and Naples Police Chief Tom Weschler also were able to get individual photos with Obama.
Support from France
Patrick and Beatrice Daval, who are from eastern France and are vacationing in Cape Coral, hoped to catch a glimpse of Obama as he arrived at Harborside.
“C’est un grand president,” Patrick Daval said.
The Rev. Israel Suarez of Nations Association Charities in Fort Myers was one of few registered Republicans who attended Obama’s event.
“I know a lot of my Republican colleagues will say, ‘What is Rev. Suarez doing there?’ but it’s my moral responsibility,” Suarez said. “I’m giving him respect. He’s the most powerful man in the world.”
Paula Schaff of the Punta Gorda Tea Party, held up “Obama Must Go” and “Stop Big Government” signs.
“We’re not against Obama as a person. We’re against his policies,” Schaff said. “His big-government policies are bankrupting our country.”
Gregg Fous, broker-owner of Market America Realty & Investment Group, sent a message to the crowds walking past his business on their way to hear Obama speak Friday morning.
The sign read, “Built Without Government Help.”
“This doesn’t mean I’m a Romney supporter,” Fous said. “I’m a supporter of the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Tish Brown, 25, of Fort Myers, joined the line before 10 a.m. with an umbrella to try to shield the stifling heat.
“I can’t wait to tell my grandkids,” Brown said.