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In my lifetime?

02/03/08

Permalink 04:13:21 am, by Tess Joscon-Arzaga Email , 1987 words   English (US)
Categories: News and Politics

In my lifetime?

In my lifetime?

If you asked me about a year ago if I thought there'd be a woman president of the United States in my lifetime I would've said, I doubt it! If you asked me now and especially after Friday's events I would give you a definite YES. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, anyway.

It was such a last minute decision to go but I'm so glad I had the opportunity and I was brave enough to go on my own. On Wednesday morning I happened to do a quick search on HillaryClinton.com for any events coming up in southern California. With our primaries coming up next week I was hoping she'd make a stop down here and if she did, I definitely wanted to go since I had missed her impromptu visit to Bonita, CA about a month ago. I saw that there was a Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Friday, Feb. 1st at SDSU's Cox Arena. It was my Friday ON and I thought wow, she'd be SO close. I had to go. I could just leave my car at the hospital parking structure and take the Trolley to campus. The trolley station is right in front of the hospital and the campus was just one stop away. Could it be any more perfect? So I emailed Boss Karin to ask if I could take the day off. It was such a last minute request I wasn't sure if she'd yes. It took about a day for her to respond but she did say Yes, I could go. YAY!

Jordan, my alarm clock, woke me up at 5:15 am and I was out the door about an hour or so later. I so love the new toll road from Chula Vista to the south end of Spring Valley. It has cut my commute to the hospital by more than half. I got to the hospital just before 7:00 am and then hopped on the trolley to SDSU's transit center which took only 4 minutes.


Trolley station in front of hospital

I was getting anxious on my walk to Cox Arena from the transit center because it was about 7:15 already and the web site said the line up would start at 8:00 am. Would there be a crowd already? Would they give out raffle ticket numbers or wrist bands like they did at rock concerts? Would there be so many people out there that I'd just have to go back to work? My pulse was racing by the time the arena came into view. Partly from the walk, partly from the excitement, but I think mostly from me being totally out of shape. I walked around toward the parking structure to get to the front entrance and by that time I thought I'd see a huge line of Hillary supporters snaking around the building. Nope. For a minute I thought maybe it was at UCSD and not at SDSU. Did I read it wrong on the web site? Where was everyone? My pulse was racing even faster. Damn, now I've got to ride the trolley back then drive all the way up to La Jolla and THEN find parking. But then I let out a sigh of relief when I saw a group of people at the front entrance, some with lawn chairs, some sitting on blankets, the rest standing probably wishing they brought a lawn chair or a blanket.


First 44 people in front of me in line

There were only about 40 or so people in front of me when I took my place in line. I looked at my phone and it said 7:20 am. The web site said the event would start at 12:30 pm but the news that morning said she'd be in to speak at 1;30 pm. Yup, I knew I was going to stand there for several hours. By myself, too. Vilma usually helped Mom watch the kids when Joseph and I went on our own to do something but she was working that Friday and I didn't give her enough notice so she could request the day off. So I stood there. In 50 degree weather. That's put on those long johns, wool scarf, and mittens kind of weather for us southern Californians. There were at least three news crews there already prepping one guy in line for a live, on-air interview. Darn, the camera faced the opposite direction. I gave Joseph a call anyway and asked him to get his finger on the record button on the DVR, just in case.

It turned out that I wouldn't have to wait there alone. The woman in front of me, Jessica, and I hit off really well from the time I stepped in line behind her. She was a writer for a travel web site and took the day off to hear Hillary speak. Over the next several hours we watched the line behind us grow, and grow, and grow. By the time they would let us in, there was in excess of 6,000 people that showed up. I believe I saw all the local news stations there and their reporters were walking up and down the line getting interviews. With so many cameras around I thought I'd get on TV. And I did. Below is the best image of me we have, unfortunately. It's taken with Joseph's cell phone cam of an image of the TV. If you squint, you probably could make me out, the black blurry blob behind the woman in the wheelchair.


From KUSI News

Almost five hours went by when they let the first group of us near the turn styles. I was so excited that it didn't seem like I stood back there for the entire five hours. In just a few minutes I'd be in the same room, breathing the same air as someone who just might be the first woman president in US history. They checked our bags, surprisingly they didn't pat us down. For some reason, I thought they'd do that. Or at least make us walk through metal detectors or wave those scanning devices across the front and back of us. After all bags were checked they opened the gates. I've never been to one of these types of events before so the RUSH of people through the gates completely surprised me. Holy cannoli, I thought I was going to get trampled. That's how it was. A mad dash to get the best seat. To make it even more nerve wracking (racking?), Cox Arena's seats are set up on an angle that's about as close to 90 degrees as you could get. The arena's actually like a big bowl. So I pretty much held on to the railing for dear life as I made my way down the steep steps hoping one of my clogs wouldn't come off and then having the person behind me topple over my backside as I bent over to pick it up. Luckily I made it down to the floor in one piece.

I sat about 10 rows back from the stage right in front of the press risers. Maybe I'd get the back of my head on the 5 o'clock news. It turned out the back of my head did make the evening news. The top left-hand corner of my head did.


Stands before the crowd


Stands after the crowd came in

It was around 12:30 pm by the time I sat down so I thought it'd be just another hour before Hillary would come out. Well, 1:30 pm came and went and still no Hillary. The wait wasn't too bad though. The woman who I ended up sitting next to was actually a classmate of Hillary's from Wellesley College. Apparently, they knew each other personally and she told me stories of how inspirational Hillary was even as a young college student. She also told me about the bi-annual class reunions they had at the White House while the Bill was in office. That was cool. She was really sweet and even took my photo below. I wish I'd gotten her name!


Me about 10 rows back from the stage

2:30 pm came and went. No Hillary in sight. I didn't mind, really. Sitting for a couple of hours was making up for the five hours I spent standing up. I was starting to get feeling back in my feet. Then a couple of minutes later I heard the press and news crews behind me power up their cameras. The secret-service-looking guys in suits started tilting their heads with their hands to their ears and were whispering into their Bluetooth devices. Hillary was in the building.

The president of SDSU, his name escapes me, came out and even before he spoke folks got up on their feet and started cheering. He was probably out there to introduce her. Sure enough he did. The noise was deafening. The excitement in the room was truly overwhelming. I was fairly close to the stage but with everyone standing up it felt like I was in the back of the room. I was up on my toes trying to get a glimpse of her. Damn, if only Joseph was there with me, I could've been up on his shoulders. Not. For several minutes I thought I could make out her blonde head sort of floating back and forth in the sea of other heads. Then finally she stepped up on the stage. When she turned to face my direction the cameras behind me went mad, shutters opening and closing at rapid speed, some in synch with flashes of light. Wow, this is what it feels like to be surrounded by paparazzi.

She started her speech immediately and the arena full of approximately 6400 people quieted down. What I heard wasn't anything new. Her words though seemed to resonate even stronger with me as I sat there with thousands of her supporters. I found myself standing up, too, and cheering along with them as she spoke about each of her issues and plans. I had read, some more than once, her plans on healthcare, education, the environment, and of course, Iraq. But then actually HEARING those words directly from her sealed the deal. My vote was definitely going to Hillary. If she wins the presidency and her plans pass through Congress, my day-to-day life will change not within five to ten years but probably within the next two years. And that's change for the better.

Hillary spoke for about an hour. As she said, "Thank you and God bless" I started to head toward the steps. But then when I turned around I noticed people were going up toward the stage behind the waist high metal barricades and she was going down the line shaking people's hands. It was just a small crowd still so hurried over there. Being as short as I am I was able to squeeze beneath people's elbows and make my way just a couple of people behind the barricade. Hillary was several feet away and by the time she made it close to where I was, there were folks pushing and shoving to get toward the front to get an autograph or possibly a photo with her. It was insane, and it reminded me of San Diego's version of Mardi Gras where it's like a sea of people elbow-to-elbow swaying back and forth like waves in the ocean. I did manage to get my cell phone up above my head and get some pretty good footage of her walking by us.

[youtube]djaRTOg01_4[/youtube]

That was an experience. I was only about three feet away from someone who could be leading our country within the next 12 months. If she does win, this first Friday in February will definitely be a story I could tell my grandkids. Yep, Grammy was part of history in the making. And she's got a video clip of the back of her head to prove it.

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