Where were you on Jan. 28, 1998, when President Bill Clinton touched down in C-U ... only to have a bit of a tough time on takeoff?
Then-Daily Illini managing editor and now-Loyola Law School associate marketing and communications director Brian Costello was a proud part of the press pool, which he recalls “was exciting in and of itself.”
“But things got even crazier both before and during the presidential trip to Champaign,” the 1998 journalism grad says from Los Angeles.
“First, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke not long before the visit, after which members of all the Chicago media outlets descended on The Daily Illini building to inquire about what we planned to ask Clinton if offered the change to interview him.
“When the day of Clinton’s visit arrived, it was clear there would be no interviews granted. But it was an unforgettable experience sitting on the tarmac of Willard Airport as Air Force One landed, and then sitting in one of the motorcade vans as we made our way past throngs of waving residents through Savoy and Champaign to the main event: a massive speech in Assembly Hall that included a rousing, barnstorming speech by Vice President Al Gore in a glimpse of what would be to come in his own presidential campaign.
“All of that was worth the price of admission, but things got even nuttier at the end of the day: Air Force One got stuck in the mud while taxiing for takeoff. I was told that was the only time that had ever happened to the plane. I scored the only interview with the Willard employee who pulled the plane out of the mud, and the story landed on the AP wire.
“The story had a happy ending: We crammed as much coverage into the next day’s Daily Illini as we could, driving the paste-ups to the the printer in Rantoul ourselves once finished to barely get the copies to newsstands on time. All in a day’s work!”