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Columbia Missourian

Pre-Obama diary: Waiting in line, helping set up

By MISSOURIAN STAFF
October 30, 2008 | 7:22 p.m. CDT

Columbia is busy getting ready for the Barack Obama rally at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night. Missourian reporters Molly Harbarger and Chris Dieterich will be documenting preparations throughout the day.

Check out reporters' photos at The Watchword's Flickr.

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Missourian reporter Regan McTarsney is Twittering from the quad.

9:53 p.m.

Obama closes his remarks.

9:39 p.m., North side of Carnahan Quad

Children on the necks of dads craned to catch a glimpse of the Democratic candidate as he spoke to the packed crowd on the Carnahan quad.

Obama had to pause for about 10 seconds when chanting of the campaign slogan "Yes we can" broke out.

9:20 p.m.

Obama begins to speak

9:06 p.m., Near Rollins Street

Obama's motorcade arrived at MU's Carnahan quadrangle as Democratic Ninth District Congressional candidate Judy Baker spoke.

8:56 p.m., Near Rollins Street

Lines were moving swiftly and the south quad was quickly filling as Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan addressed the crowd.

MU College Democrats president Caitlin Ellis opened the program. Ellis' remarks were followed by the playing of the national anthem by Columbia band John Henry and the Engine.

8:30 p.m., Columbia Regional Airport

Obama's plane touched down at Columbia Regional Airport amid a crowd of onlookers. Security had been steadily increasing for more than an hour before his arrival.

7:24 p.m., Carnahan Quadrangle

Inside the barriers, speakers blared U2’s “Beautiful Day” on a cloudless Columbia night. Scores of onlookers dotted the green space south of Jesse Hall.

Many hurried pedestrians outside the checkpoints scrambled on cell phones to find friends and family members amid the confusion of the crowd. Others, parked under trees with blankets, seemed content to listen from outside.

7:20 p.m. Carnahan Quadrangle,

Thousands of people began to filter slowly though a bank of security checkpoints to see Sen. Barack Obama’s rally at MU’s Carnahan Quadrangle. Crowds were let in 15 to 20 minutes earlier than the previously announced 7:30 p.m. admission time.

Two lines converged on a tented security checkpoint housing 14 metal detectors on Ninth Avenue, just north of the quad. Entrants were told repeatedly to have their keys out and cell phones turned on as they approached. Security moved steadily as entrants were screened. 

 5:58 p.m., University Avenue and Hitt Street

Craig Glover and Kennedi Brandt are students at Louis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City. They’ve just driven to Columbia with their aunt and their grandmother.

“We came to see Obama,” Glover said. “He is the first black man—”

“African American,” Brandt corrected him.

 “—since Martin Luther King Jr. to have a chance.”

Both are shocked at the length of the line when they turn the corner south on Hitt Street. It snakes around and grows steadily longer with each passing minute.

Neither are old enough to cast a ballot, but Glover said he wanted to come to encourage other people to vote.

5:53 p.m., Ninth Street and University Avenue

Lori and Jay Eggert have been waiting patiently since 5:15 p.m. on the sidewalk at University Avenue to get into the Obama rally. They've moved about a car length.

Still 3 1/2 hours from Sen. Barack Obama’s scheduled speech, Lori explained what drove her stand in line to see the presidential nominee.

“I really like to hear candidates speak in person. Their dynamism doesn’t come across the same on television… (That he’s here tonight) I think it says a lot about his campaign’s commitment to young people.

"It would have been easy for his party – I mean my party, I’m a Democrat – to give up on this state, but he has not done so.”

Coming out to see Obama tonight was like saying, “I’m with you 100 percent,” she said. “I really believe you have the best chance for our country.”

Jay Eggert sat beside her reading a book. For most of his life, he was apolitical, he said, and he used to vote Republican. He’s been to few political events in his lifetime, but with Obama, something clicked.

“I’ve really been enthused since I first heard him speak,” he said. “I could tell he was different.”

Lori Eggert nodded knowingly.

“We’ve been married 20 years, and I’ve never seen him excited about a campaign.”

3:36 p.m., South Ninth Street

Darren Orf and Clint Alwahab headed to the curb by Speaker's Circle at 1:45 p.m. when they got out of class. They were not in the front of the line.

The first couple arrived around noon. Now, more than 100 people have joined them in the sun along the sidewalk all the way to Lowry Mall.

Some people are eating burritos or sandwiches; others, like Anna Meyer, are using the time to catch up on homework.

"I'm going to get a good spot," Meyer said.

Orf and Alwahab said they came because they thought the speaker was important.

"He's going to be the next president, I'm pretty sure of it," Orf said. "It's a pretty historic election."

Alwahab said he'd also show up to see McCain, though maybe not quite so early.

Tom Cogswell was sitting in the middle of the line at 2:45 p.m. He and a friend planned to take shifts. Cogswell said he's hoping a friend who is volunteering will get him special access, though, so he won't have to wait five hours in line. He saw Obama speak once before in Illinois in 2006.

"I think the guy has just got to win," said Cogswell, a fervent supporter.

A guy in an Obama T-shirt with "Socialism" written on loose-leaf paper taped underneath passed out fliers to a NObama rally to be held at 7:30 p.m.

Nearby, a T-shirt vendor was setting up a table with Obama shirts to sell.

 12:57 p.m., Mel Carnahan Quadrangle 

No one is camped out or waiting in any lines yet because those who arrived early were recruited to help set up the area where Barack Obama will speak tonight.

Rachel Opare and Jessica Beabout came from Metro Business College in Jefferson City at 9 a.m. to wait until 9:30 p.m. to see Obama speak. When coordinators for the event asked for volunteers, they were two of about 15 people who decided to help.

"We didn't want to leave our place in line at first," Jessica said.

They were rewarded for their efforts. All the volunteers received yellow tickets, which give the holder preferred seating.

They will be closest to Obama, while everyone else will have blue tickets. The line will start on the street in front of Jesse Hall.