How a broken camera gave me a memory to last forever

By Rita Buettner  |  Photo by Nick Alexopulos, '03

I never thought I’d meet Tony Blair.

I didn’t even think I’d get close enough to him to take his picture—which was just as well because my camera broke last week.

Then just hours before Blair was due to arrive on campus, one of my colleagues sent me an email. The former prime minister of the United Kingdom was going to deliver a brief statement on the passing of Margaret Thatcher to the media before the lecture.

As editor of Loyola magazine, I was welcome to come. So, of course, I went.

I waited for an hour alongside media from three Baltimore TV stations, The Baltimore Sun, and our very own reporters and photographers from The Greyhound—the most enthusiastic and earnest members of the media I’ve met.

I had borrowed a camera but it refused to turn on as Blair pulled up in a black Suburban. So, while everyone around me shot video and still images of his remarks, I merely smiled and scrawled on a notepad.

Can you find me in this photo? I'm the one with the blue jacket--and no camera.

He shared his thoughts on Thatcher’s passing, and then he was gone.

I figured I would see him once more, at the lecture, as one of almost 3,000 people. I just felt lucky to have been about 15 feet away from him as he delivered his statement.

But a half hour later, as I waited to get inside Reitz Arena, I ran into a colleague who was working the VIP reception.

“I think I can get you in for a photo with him,” she said.

At first I turned her down. I was at the lecture with a friend, and it didn’t seem right to leave my friend while I went off to meet the former British prime minister. But my friend insisted. “Go,” she said. “It will make my evening for you to meet him.”

Now that is a true friend.

So I went. And moments later I was in line, wondering what I should say.

When it was my turn, I shook his hand. He was smiling and he looked as if he wanted to say something. I merely introduced myself and told him I worked for Loyola.

“Yes, I remember,” he said. “You were outside.”

I was astonished. He and I stood behind the tape markings on the floor and smiled together for the camera. It took only a moment and then he was on to the next person.

And all I could think was that Tony Blair remembered me! In this sea of people who were passing him, spending a moment with him here and there, he recognized me from that brief media moment. Then I realized. I was probably the only member of the media who was not behind a camera, so he could actually see my face. And he must be one of those people who has a good memory for faces.

Today, of course, he wouldn’t recognize me. But I have something better than a picture—a memory of not only a lecture full of insights and quips and a glimpse into this world leader’s personality, but also the briefest of conversations, the icing on the cake of a magnificent evening.

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Derek Baumgardner | April 13, 2013

    Excellent. Real journalism.

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