We knew after walking most of a mile that this must it – a table with letters and two people behind it while a massive crowd numbering in the thousands milled about on the rolling, hilly terrain in the distance.
“What’s this, then?” I asked a white-haired male with a clipboard.
“This is for the press. You know – television and broadcasters,” he said.
What looked like a shortcut through the masses turned into a condescending lesson on media.
Briefly, I longed for my lost press credentials gained as a reporter and editor.
Not wanting to correct the man by observing there were more print media in line than broadcasters, I took my 7-year-old daughter’s hand on one side and my 10-year-old son’s in the other and continued the forced march with my friend and co-worker Randall to see and hear Barack Obama, Democratic Presidential Candidate, speak.
My approach had been well-planned.
A friend and church elder (who made it clear he does not support Obama) let me park at his home a half-mile from Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, Va., the rally’s site.
Organizers set up the rally on the other side of the park, though, making my “shortcut” not so short. A longer march became necessary before getting into the long line to go through security and a metal detector set up by the U.S. Secret Service.
My children began to complain and ask “how much longer?”
My friend began to suggest cutting in line.
I debated this over in my mind – rationalizing I had children and could therefore fall under the “Women and Children First” credo. I was hesistant to cut due to years of training and socialization, though.
Finally, my friend could stand no more.
He took my children’s hands and led them into sin – cutting in line amid boos, hisses and yells of “line cutter!”
I reluctantly followed, now a social pariah. I hung my head as we easily cut 40 minutes off our time in line and saved my children the agony of a longer wait.
By the time we took a place 20 yards from the speaker podium – after guards went through our goody bag stuffed with drinks, granola bars and fruit snacks for the children – we had walked through a snaking line for about 40 minutes.
Thankfully, my son’s cell phone has games.
My daughter danced to the loud music coming through the speakers such as “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead and U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day.”
The crowd pushed in closer as my friend and I made a little barrier for a tiny space where the children could sit on my jacket and play. My son learned how to take a blade of grass and whistle – drawing everyone’s attention.
With the “penguin effect” – penguins huddle together in Antartica to keep warm as noted in the movie “March of the Penguins” – we remained warm.
After about an hour to 90 minutes of this, taking photos and planning camera angles, the speeches began after the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem.
To be honest, didn’t catch much of them but got a feeling of the same old political rhetoric from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
By the time Obama spoke, the sun cast rays on a barn behind him, setting a rustic scene for us under a clear blue sky.
The words he spoke touched me – such as “inclusiveness” and shouting back “I love you too” when someone shouted out “We love you man.”
“I feel like we’ve got a righteous wind at our backs,” Obama said at one point during his speech.
My friend Randall noted that Obama’s powerful voice and the crowd reaction made the event seem like a revival.
Shortly before the speech’s end my daughter gave me the urgent message she needed to go to the restroom.
We started off toward the portable restroom but came up against a wall of unyielding audience members. The opposite direction yielded better results and we got out and around the crowd just as the event ended while separating from my son and my friend.
About 90 minutes later we found them next to a police officer and ended our adventure.
To read more about the rally and see photos go here: