Last night Dan and I took the kids to see Barack Obama at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. It was advertised that the doors would open at 5:30 and the program would begin at 7:30. At 5:15 we were sitting on the freeway, in a solid line of cars waiting to exit for the Convention Center.
About 30 minutes later, after figuring out that there were no more parking spaces in any of the lots, we parked in front of a hair salon, and began to hike toward the back of the line. Past the front of the building, the line snaked around and doubled back on itself. Past the parking lot, it stretched on out to the end of a row of trees. We got in line. I could not comprehend what I was seeing. Ahno kept saying, "See? See? He's going to be president." I started thinking maybe she was right.
Here's a blurry, dark, windy video of the line:
People (and we too) stood in that line outside for two hours while it crept along, with people being let into the building after being checked by security. At one point, Obama went past in an SUV with darkened windows and a police escort. Everyone in the line went mad, as if it was a Beatles concert, with all of them resurrected from the dead and promising to end pocket lint or something. I saw a lot of people I know, and I met some new people. Everyone was nice. Nervous though. It was cold.
Finally at 7:30, they just gave up on the security, threw open all the doors, and the stampede began. We had to fight to stay connected to each other. Ahno got run over twice by people abandoning any sense of order or place in line and rushing for the entrance. The children were excited.
Inside, it was just as crazy but in a different, brighter way. A sea of people. We fought our way as close as we could do the front and stood there for another hour waiting. We listened to Tim Kaine, our blue governor. We listened to U2 songs. I hoisted children onto my shoulders, onto my head, while staring at the shoulder blades of a forest of tall people in front of me. People were eager, anxious, desperate. It was like a rock concert. They wanted to see him, touch him, catch a glimpse of him.
Finally Obama arrived and cranked up the oratory. It was a familiar speech. At about the halfway point, I had had enough of the crushing crowd, and my unforgiving spine was ready to crack. We went back to the back, where we could see more easily if from a greater distance. The ethos of the place was familiar from some churches I have visited. Call and response. Rhythmic murmuring. A collective excitement. A feeling of humble petition to the man on stage. Toward the end of his speech, we jetted out, to try and avoid the thousands pushing through the doors to leave.
The paper said there were 18000 people there. I can't believe we actually went and took both kids. Being part of a crowd that big is just something I would normally crawl over glass to avoid. I'm glad I did, though, because I think it was important for the children to see this piece of history. They enjoyed it -- I'm not sure what part of it was interesting for them but I'm sure the experience will be memorable.
As for me, I'm still a Hillary supporter. I'll vote for her tomorrow. Apparently, so is Benny: