Last night I saw one of the most astonishing things to come my way in many years. I went to the Virginia Beach Obama rally.
How many people attended? I don’t have a number but I can give you an idea of the immensity and the character of that crowd. Waiting in line for nearly half an hour to get off the freeway in a double line that stretched back over a mile, I eventually got sight of the V.B. Convention Center and joked, “There might not be room in the parking lot when we get there.”
Then I took a better look. Already there was no room.
Through the trees, I saw movement and gasped. From high up on the freeway I could see a line many people wide stretch around from the front of the Center, down the street, around a corner, down another street, around another corner and then the line twisted back upon itself and went back the way that it came, only at one point it turned a final corner and went a couple of blocks to the Double Tree Hotel, turned again and disappeared…and this was over two and a half hours before the doors would even open!
Eventually we got off the freeway and found all parking access to Convention Center parking blocked by police cars and mounted police. The force was out in strength, steering a vast moving river of people. When we were able to locate a private parking area at a distance, we climbed out of the van as gusts of wind up to forty-miles-per-hour threw clouds of grit into our faces. It was cold, too.
All around us a mob of people emerged from cars parked on every so-far-unparked-upon little section of private space. Shocked by the cold and the wind, no one turned away and went home. Most of those people had no wraps on at all! Shirt sleeves, t-shirts, high heels, completely inappropriate clothing for the challenge they were about to face…hours and hours of standing still in a cold, high wind. They all stayed.
We did have wraps and wore them. It was a long hike to the end of that line. I walk my dogs everyday so although not an active person, I do get around but that walk just about did me in. Arriving at the end of the line, we just stood…for hours.
At last the line began to move. We inched up, inched up, inched up, inched up, inched up. At fifteen minutes before the doors were to open, we reached the bottom of the line at the back of the Convention Center.
A big black vehicle came past, escorted front and back by mounted police to hold the crowds away. People rushed forward screaming hysterically. Police edged them back and the vehicle moved slowly forward.
I asked a woman, “Who was that?” She’d been one of those who pushed herself up toward the SUV. She turned to me as if I were out of my mind, “It was HIM!” she yelled. “But,” I questioned, “how do you know? All the windows were darkened.” She replied, “I felt it.”
So we continued to wait. Then it was time for the doors to open. Suddenly the vast mob broke and raced pell-mell for the doors. No more pretense at lines. Well-dressed men and ladies in suits and fancy hats stampeded forward like animals, just like the young people in droopy pants, t-shirts, and do-rags.
Little old me, I was terrified. These crazy morons just plain ran over me. I was stomped, smashed from side to side, thrown this and that way. Somehow I managed to maintain a vague semblance of vertical posture, knocked and bashed about as I was. My poor, poor feet. Oh, the pain.
My left foot was already in pain because I injured it the other day. Somehow my little toe went back as the rest of the foot went straight ahead and I tore the ligaments that hold the toe in place. It wasn’t too painful without shoes, but put that foot into a shoe and YOW! I had stood there in serious pain for a long time and now the brainless crush of idiots squashed, stamped-down-into-the pavement that already-hurt foot.
One great big man, his shoulder shoved into my face, smashed down on that foot so hard that I knew he’d broken bones and I screamed up toward his ear, “Stop it, a**h***! Stop it, you’ve hurt me!”
My family tried to shelter me but Dan and Lydia each held a child that needed protection.
The crowd’s forward vector shoved me to the side and I waited until there was space to get myself together. Limping painfully, I worked myself into the building. All around me the crowd continued to force itself ahead, pushing and shoving, but I stayed out of the main push. And now, very much hurt, I didn’t scruple to scream at anyone who looked like coming down on my foot.
After a while, son-in-law Dan was able to get in front of me to block the mob. I gripped the back of his coat sleeve and we struggled on.
Indoors, I discovered that there were no seats…AT ALL. The entire Convention Center was bare floor. Two thirds of this was covered with bodies packed so closely that they were literally face-to-the-back-of-the-head-in-front. It was a solid mass of humanity.
I found an empty spot by the wall toward the back and sank gratefully down, assumed the lotus position, back to the wall. Lydia and Dan, carrying kids on their shoulders, went elsewhere to try for a spot from which eventual speakers would be visible.
From my place on the floor I saw the crowd continue to pour in, on and on, a river without end. Speakers blasted thunderously loud music. Aretha, singing “Respect,” for example. Some of the crowd danced in place. Most just stood waiting.
Over an hour passed. Then Mayor Oberndorf greeted the crowd by saying it was a historic moment, the biggest group ever to assemble in Virginia Beach. Then more music. From time to time another politician came out on stage, seized the mike and said a few words.
The crowd grew more than restless, restless to the umpteenth power, fed up with surrogates. It began to roar, “O-BAH-MA!” A chant that shook the building and vibrated the floor in its immensity.
An then, there he was. I had moved all the way to the back of the Convention Center, from which vantage, oddly, I could see him pretty well. He gave the same speech he gives everywhere. I paid no attention to him but watched the crowd.
Those faces. It was raw, naked, complete, worship, love, heart-whole passionate stunned and almost unbelieving but desperately wanting to believe him adoration. He is their Messiah. It’s a cult. And they are going to be so disappointed.
He will be the next president and no man, however smart and well intentioned, can deliver the things dreamed by those who stood to hear him last night.