Obama's Delaware "Pit" Stop "Incredible" for Workers, Customers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tim Furlong explains how President Barack Obama addressed the Malaysian Airliner being shot down and his plans for Delaware. (Published Thursday, Jul 17, 2014)

    President Barack Obama made a special stop during his economic visit to Delaware on Thursday.

    The president stopped by the Charcoal Pit in North Wilmington, Delaware, a favorite of Vice President Joe Biden's.

     

    The restaurant's manager, Joseph Grabowski, said he and his employees only learned of the president's visit roughly 20 minutes before his arrival, but they were all very excited.

    "It was incredible. All of the customers were amazed. It was pretty exciting," he said.

    "I greeted him [Obama] at the door and I told him, 'My father shook hands with President Roosevelt when he was 12 years old, and now I'm shaking hands with you.'"

    Grabowski said a father and son pair of cooks working at the restaurant prepared the president's food, and 22-year-old Sean Brown was chosen to be Obama's waiter.

    "It was a complete shock," Brown said. "I was a little nervous, but it was really one of those 'Is this really happening?' kind of moments."

    The restaurant, which is known for its burgers and shakes, has been a staple in the state for more than 50 years.

    After shaking hands and greeting patrons, Obama ordered the Pit Special, a burger with fries.

    But he wasn't really there for the grub.

    White House officials say Obama went to the popular eatery to meet with a single mother from Wilmington named Tanei Benjamin.

    Benjamin reportedly wrote to the president in July 2013 about her struggles as a single, working mother of a 6-year-old.

    After reading Benjamin's story, the president sent her letter to his senior staff with a note at the bottom.

    The note read, "This is the person we are working for..."

    Delaware residents took to Twitter on Thursday to chat about the president's visit. Some felt the food stop was inappropriate when weighed in with news of a Malaysian Airlines jet crash in Ukraine.

    Others, like Michelle Jablonska and her mom, were excited to hear Obama was in their home state.

    Jablonska, a 17-year-old from Wilmington, had intended to make a run to Dunkin Donuts with her mom, but they were discouraged because of all the traffic.

    When she went on social media and saw friends posting about the president's stop at Charcoal Pit, she and her mom decided it was worth the trip.

    Jablonska's house is just across the street from the restaurant, which made it easy to join the crowd of onlookers hoping to get a glimpse of Obama.

    People were not allowed to enter the restaurant after the president's arrival, and Secret Service agents used metal detector wands on the individuals watching outside.

    "Secret Service frisked people to make sure if he [Obama] came out to say 'Hi' to people, nothing would happen," Jablonska said. "But he got in the car and left."

    Though locals might not have gotten as close to the president as they had hoped, it did turn a regular Thursday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware, into a brief social media frenzy.

    "Nothing interesting happens here, so it's like once in a lifetime," Jablonska said.