My grand adventure for today was to head to downtown St. Louis to the arch for the Obama rally happened there today. So, I dragged myself out of bed early (or early for a Saturday, anyway...I love my sleep!) and drove to the closest Metro-link station. Everyone else on the platform was also headed for the rally, judging by their t-shirts and buttons. I think we all thought we were so clever and early since supposedly the gates weren't going to open until 10:15, but when the metro pulled into the arch station, we could already see a long line snaking around the park by the arch. I thought we must be the end of the line, but people kept pouring in to the park. Eventually they opened up a huge grassy hill to people because they couldn't fit any more in the parts they'd reserved for people to stand. It was quite a sight to see people pouring down that hill. Apparently, they are saying that somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 people showed up. I have photos that I'll try to post when I get home, but for now, check out this news story to see a picture of the crowd. It pretty much moved steadily the entire time and by 10 a.m. I was standing in my spot directly under the highest point of the arch.
Spirits were definitely up and the crowd was nice and well-behaved. Volunteers even handed out water bottles to the crowd since you weren't allowed to bring anything like that in with you. Since I was by myself, I'd been a bit apprehensive about doing this, but I'd put a book in my pocket (no bags allowed) and I read that some of the time and talked to people around me at other times. At about 11:15 they started bringing up people like the mayor and Congressmen, etc. to speak to us. And a teacher from a charter school in downtown St. Louis introduced Obama. The crowd went nuts when Obama came on stage. I stood on tippy toes for a view of him, even though I wasn't terribly far back. It was amazing to hear him speak in person. Regardless of what you think of him and if you'll vote for him, it's historic that he's made it this far and he's a gifted, moving speaker. And I think I heard more from him today about what he'll do than I ever have, which was wonderful.
Afterwards, I made my way as quickly as possible to the metro. The departure from the rally was not without a few panicky moments caused by the crush of the crowd trying to get out of the park. Definitely the claustrophobic side of me reared it's head a couple of times requiring some deep, calming breaths. There were so many people trying to get to the metro, that I figured it would take me hours to get on a train (and I think it did take hours for some) but I managed to get on the first train that pulled in after I'd gotten on the platform...with about a thousand other people. By the time I'd stopped at Union Station for some lunch and a look around and fought my way back on to another train (seriously - it must have taken hours to get everyone out of that park) and made it back to where my rental car was, it was 7 hours after the adventure had begun. I decided for some downtime and went to see a movie and proceeded to have to fight to stay away, not because the movie was boring but because I'm TIRED!
Now, I'm back in my hotel room, all packed for my very early flight home tomorrow, sporting a bit of a sunburn as a souveneir of my adventure and ready for some rest.
I have to say that if yesterday and today are any kind of indication, I'm going to like St. Louis. Of course, I'm pretty sure Obama won't come speak every Saturday, so I'll have to find something else inspiring to do. But there are still Botanic Gardens, the zoo, museums, Soulard Market, and oh-so-much more to be explored, so I don't think it'll be a problem. But for now, I'm ready to get back to Colorado, which is home for a few more weeks.
P.S. Here's the speech if you're interested.