Sherrill Estes stood in the shadow of Air Force One dwarfed by the massive airplane, her blue dress a perfect match for the paint job on the presidential carrier, waiting patiently for her turn for the moment of a lifetime.
Shortly after President George W. Bush landed at the Quonset Point Air National Guard Base, Estes, of Tiverton, had her opportunity for a one-on-one encounter.
Being recognized by Bush for the President's Volunteer Service Award, Estes stood side-by-side with the president sharing conversation, a handshake and a photo opportunity.
During the five-minute meeting, Bush presented Estes with a pin and congratulated her for dedicating so much of her time to volunteerism.
"He said congratulations, have you ever seen a plane that big and promote volunteerism," Estes said moments after meeting Bush.
Estes received the honor because of her dedication with the East Bay Community Action, where she serves as a volunteer with the Social Services Department. In that capacity, Estes has logged more than 1,800 hours of service in the organization's food pantry, where she stocks shelves and packages food boxes to be distributed to individuals and families in need in the local area. Estes has also volunteered with Meals on Wheels for the past six years, delivering food weekly to the homebound.
Bush began presenting the award in March 2002 to people just like Estes at each of his stops throughout the country. Since then more than 575 people have been recognized.
As if meeting Bush, and earning the president's recognition were not enough, Estes said the award is the first time she has ever earned a big prize in her life.
"This is just an honor," Estes said. "I've never won anything in my life, so I told him, 'I believe in starting at the top.'"
She added the toughest part of the day was just staying on her feet.
"I'm just glad I didn't pass out," Estes said.
As Estes met with Bush, her daughter, Lori Buckley, also of Tiverton, snapped photos that will live as a reminder for what Buckley called a "surreal" experience.
"I couldn't believe it when she called me Saturday night and said 'I'm going to meet the president,'" Buckley said. "But I'm just glad she's being recognized."
Estes' opportunity with Bush came after the president made his way through a greeting group that included Gov. Donald Carcieri and his wife, Sue, former Gov. Lincoln Almond, House Minority Leader Bob Watson, Col. Lawrence Gallogly, wing commander of the 143rd Air Lift Group, the mayors of Warwick, R.I., and Newport, R.I., and others.
Carcieri said prior to Bush's landing that it was a "very exciting day."
"I'm very, very happy he's here," Carcieri said.
The excitement of Bush's visit reached its height as the nose and massive wing span of Air Force One could be seen approaching from the hazy sky to the north of the landing strip.
Shortly after coming into view, the plane touched down with a roar, and U.S. Marine Corps helicopters buzzed in the background.
After the landing, the plane made a U-turn, slowing to a crawl as it approached its final stop on the Quonset base's runway, and Bush appeared a short time later at the plane's open gate, grinning and giving a one-handed wave to those gathered for his arrival.
After making his way through the crowd of greeters and meeting with Estes, Bush hopped into one of the helicopters and was off in a whirl of blades to travel over Narragansett Bay to give a speech at the Naval War College in Newport.
While the president was off, Estes said the experience would live on with for at least the rest of the day.
"Tomorrow, everything will be back to normal," Estes said.
E-mail Herald News (Fall River, Mass.) staff reporter Will Richmond at firstname.lastname@example.org