birds eye view

i asked my friend jen to post something about the experience she had last sunday, when she and her family stood with an estimated 50,000 people at the "oval" at colorado state university campus to hear obama speak.
so here she is!

We knew that taking 2 small children to a political rally that was expected to draw thousands of people could be considered cause for concern for our sanity. We also felt this could be one of those moments in history that they would be able to look back on and be proud that they were there, even if they didn’t fully understand the implication or importance.

We arrived to find that people were indeed already starting to line up, even though Obama wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another six hours. We decided to hunker down and set up camp. We were easily within the first several hundred people there, which we were later glad for, given the amazing turn out. We started out camped just around the corner from the makeshift entrance to the south end of the oval. The kids were excited that there was such a buzz in the air. They played Frisbee and tag and ran around with the kids of other crazy liberal parents.

A couple of hours later, the line started moving forward, even though they were still not allowing access to the Oval. They had us position ourselves 6 per row (there were 6 in our group- how fortunate!), and moved us closer to the corner. We later learned that this was probably because the line by then extended all the way across campus to Shields, north on Shields, and the wrapped itself around Laurel…. And still several hours to go! We were now situated in an area with some grass and trees next to us, which was great for the kids, as well as grown-ups, finding ways to pass the time. Good thing chess is a long game. Volunteers cruised the crowd with clipboards, making everyone sign in with names and addresses, and we received Xs on our hands to gain admittance. Obama-bling and Obama-wear were for sale all over.

When things started to get close, we packed all our stuff back to the van, and we started to move toward the entrance. As we worked our way around the corner, we passed more riot gear than I’d ever seen on campus… surreal to say the least. They had the whole Oval fenced in, with an entrance created in the fashion of airport security. Maybe 15 metal detectors created the “gate”, that we were herded though with amazing efficiency. Our electronics had to be turned on, and were examined and returned as we passed through security. We followed the line of people to the north end of the Oval, where there were bleachers set up behind a podium stage area. The bleachers were reserved for VIPs, people who had worked and volunteered for the campaign. We were allowed to file in, and set ourselves up in much the same way we might have for a summer picnic concert. We were maybe 30 feet from the podium, lounged on our spread out jackets, the day was spectacular, music and excitement filled the air. This would be SO COOL.

Shortly after settling in, we experienced the first of several “surges”. We were moved forward, closer in to the gated off bleacher area. This resulted in standing-room-only-sardine-style seating. No more comfy lounging… that made things with kiddos a bit more challenging for the last hour or so, but the kids continued to be champs, all the way thru. After we Pledged our Allegiance and the National Anthem was sung, they started to bring through opening speakers. These included our Governor Bill Ritter, as well as Betsy Markey, congressional candidate. True to kid form, twenty minutes before Obama came out, Rhys announced he had to pee. Andy and Rhys inched their way out of the crowd to the potties, and unfortunately couldn’t make it back to us, finding a place by the bleachers.

As Gov Ritter was speaking, the motorcade arrived, and , from our vantage point we could see the motorcycle boys and all their commotion behind the bleachers. Shortly thereafter, Barack Obama entered amid wild waving, cheers and cameras. It was sort of like being at a concert, all psyched to get tickets on the floor, only to realize that being packed in the way we were, it might have been better to get the elevated seats in the back… but here there were no elevated seats in the back- we all had floor seats. Being as close as we were, at least we were able to see him pretty well, between being bounced round and blocked by hands and heads and cameras and cell phones. At least it was all good-natured and positive. I held Kelsey on my shoulders off and on, and she really did pay attention to what he was saying. She livened notably when he talked about making sure that all children had the ability to receive a good education. Barack Obama is every bit the impressive speaker and presence I anticipated he would be. It was fantastic.

When Obama was done speaking, I turned around and was astounded to see that not only had the entire Oval filled to capacity, but people still appeared to be streaming in. It was AMAZING, if not a trifle claustrophobic. It took quite some time (and patience) to wade through all that mayhem to get back to our van. There we reconnected with Andy and Rhys, and with some of our friends. We popped the top to the van (as well as to some beers) and waited in hippie van style for the thousands to dissipate (some 50,000 according to local news today- WOW!).

It was an unprecedented presidential candidate visit, in an unprecedented election, in unprecedented times. Times demanding change, as Barack Obama puts forth. Let’s hope we get to see that change start, just over a week from now.

No comments: