Because meeting him was the culmination of years of admiration and dreams of such a moment, I nervously but eagerly extended my hand to the President and he accepted it. It was like an electrical charge zooming from my hand to my brain. I had actually made contact with him. As we shook hands his Lincoln started moving. Mr. Kennedy looked back at me as the car zoomed away, almost as if he was sorry our brief encounter had ended.

For a 16-year-old Tony Zappone, it was one of those moments in life that could hardly be equaled by any other experience.

I had done what I set out to accomplish and wondered if I should even bother to continue following the President for the remainder of his stay in Tampa. After all, how could I top this? But I decided I wanted to spend the rest of the day with him and it turned out to be an option that would affect my professional future in many ways.

While it had been somewhat awkward, it was an important thing for me to have done andI learned four days later just how important. It was a Forrest Gump moment if there ever was one. When I saw the movie more than 30 years later, my evaluation of myself that day was of an early Forrest Gump with an aptitude for taking pictures rather than catching shrimp.

Meanwhile, I was still planted on the spot, dazed from my moment with the President. Tim Moran called over to me and said, "Make sure I get a copy of that picture!"

The President was driven about a mile to the MacDill AFB Officer's Club for lunch and a briefing of the day's activities. After lunch, he would be taken by helicopter to Al Lopez Field.

Photo: Tony Zappone
A Marine helicopter waits for JFK at MacDill A.F.B. The chopper is parked between Bayshore Blvd and Tampa Bay (seen in background).