Yesterday, life strapped me in and took me on a roller coaster ride of a day.

President Obama was scheduled to hold a rally not only in my town, but a mere two blocks from where I work. His campaign offices are just about catty-corner to mine, so it was easy for me to get tickets to the rally just in case my family had any interest in going.

It would mean taking the kids out of school, a thing that hubby – despite all his years of cutting class back in the 70’s – frowns upon. Yet we both agreed that seeing the President live and in person would be an acceptable reason to miss a day of school. We just had to figure out if we wanted to go through the hassle of the lines and security. It would be a long, hot wait if we decided to go. In the end, realizing that neither child would be missing anything vital that Wednesday, we opted to attend.

The day dawned sunny and bright. With no kids to ready for school, I got out of the house early which was a necessity – parking around my offices was going to come at a premium and the early bird catches the parking space! During my drive in the local news was reporting a murder/suicide where 4 people were killed, and news about the President’s visit, street closures, etc.

My plan was to get as much work done as possible before noon, meet up with hubby and the girls at my offices, and walk up to the rally to spend 3 hours in line. With Howard Stern on vacation, and not really digging his “best of” special this week, I did not have my headphones on as I usually do and could hear all the typical office banter as I did my work.

The head of the sales department was giving her usual pep talk to her team and a few times had mentioned the absence of a staff member, Beth. She had been out sick the day before, and having not heard from her yet that morning was worried. I remember her saying “It’s not like her to sleep in, even if she’s sick.” I heard her leave a voice message on her phone.

At around 11 am my family arrived. I was in the middle of building an ad that I wanted to finish before I left for the day, so I told them to busy themselves for 15 minutes or so. A few minutes later my boss entered asking if we could circle up. I was expecting to get a speech about the President’s visit and taking time off and parking and what’s to be expected of us.

Instead he says, “I’ve never had to do this before. Last night Beth was killed.”

Killed? Not died. Not passed away. Killed – which implies intent and malice. And violence.

I know I audibly gasped. I know my hand went to my mouth. I know I didn’t hear anything else my boss had to say.

While I did not work closely with her, she was a living, breathing soul who my living breathing soul passed daily on the way to the bathroom or in the kitchen. I remember just last month totally botching the signing of her birthday card.

We have two Beths in the office, and I was lead to believe the card was for the other one. Not wanting to write something lame like, “Happy Birthday, Beth!”  I drew a little picture and wrote something appropriate for Beth number 2, not realizing the card was for Beth number 1. When I realized my blunder, I approached her and said something like, “you must think I am a total numbskull” and explained the mishap. I even thought of making her a little mini birthday card of her own as a funny little apology, but didn’t.

Now I wish I had.

It turns out she was a part of that 4 person murder-suicide that was reported on the morning news. All the details aren’t out yet, but my coworker and her 3 children, are all dead.

I left the office and met my family for lunch, where my husband, in his usual wishy-washy fashion, began to waffle on our decision to take the kids out of school. But I couldn’t concentrate on that, and I have to admit I got annoyed.

We walked up to wait in line, and once our tickets were ripped and we took our place amongst the thousands of other spectators we had 3 hours to stand around and think.

It’s hard to keep a 16 & 10 year old occupied on a hot August day where all you can do is stand in one place for an hour. We played a few rounds of 20 questions. I had my daughter tell me in great detail about the last episode of “Pretty Little Liars.” President Obama owes me big time for that one.

And I thought about Beth. I thought about how scared she must have been, and it made me really sad. I thought about her last few weeks at work – they were tough ones. Our sister publication just put their biggest issue of the year to press, and it’s particularly rough on the sales reps. I know that she had been one of the top sellers, so she must have worked really hard. It was over and behind her, and now she’s just gone.

The hour finally came where we were ushered into the Pavilion and phase two of operation hurry up and wait commenced. We were put through metal detectors, our bags meticulously searched, and our bodies wanded. I was surprised the Secret Service didn’t confiscate my eye-liner sharpener that I had in my bag. I was fully expecting to have to give that up for the cause.

After that we made it to the inside of the Pavilion and staked out our spot. Our vantage point was fantastic – we were around 30 feet from the podium where the President would speak from. And we still had 2 hours to wait.

We sat on the concrete floor for a while, talked about this and that, texted a friend or two, and then the urge hit me. Quite typical of Tracy, I had to pee.

This wasn’t going to be an easy feat. While there was a barricade directly to my right which separated the throngs from the handicapped section, they wouldn’t let you jump the barricade – even though it gave you easy access to the bathrooms.

Instead, I had to take my daughter by the hand and weave, pardon, excuse me and sorry about that my way through THOUSANDS of people packed like sardines. I tried to be as kind and apologetic as possible, but there were still a bunch who grumbled. And if I thought getting to the bathroom was hard, getting back was even worse.

However, once that little chore was over with, the waiting went relatively quickly. We had to suffer through 30 minutes of a banjo playing quartet…I don’t mean to disparage the banjo, but it got tedious after that long. Then came out some folks to talk about volunteering, followed by speeches from former governor Kaine, and former Congressman Perriello.

Then came the big man himself. After a short speech from a UVA student, President Obama was introduced and out he walked. In the flesh. Right before my very eyes.

I think between my husband, my 16 year old and I, we took about 160 photos and a bunch of video of the rally. Being so close, and having a decent zoom on my little Canon, I was able to get some decent shots. Unfortunately, many of them show the President’s face contorted in speech, or with closed eyes, but this is why I took so many.

He spoke for about 40 minutes, and it was truly thrilling. For 4 years I’ve seen him on television, and in print, but here he was right in front of me. I wish my dad, who is a robo-democrat, could’ve been there. He would have truly cherished that moment.

Afterwards we joined the throngs of people trying to leave the venue which in itself was a sight to see. I’m sure the businesses on the Downtown Mall appreciated all the money they made yesterday – lines for ice cream at all three locations were out the door.

And I’m really glad we took our kids. They got to see what it’s like to rally behind someone or something – to join forces and cheer for what you believe in. I saw later that day that my oldest had joined the “Students for Obama” page on Facebook. I “liked” that in more ways than one.

My day started with a tragedy, and ended with some hope for the future. There is so much political bashing on Facebook and in the media – both sides are guilty of it. But yesterday all I could really think about was that I was grateful to be alive and breathing, plain and simple. I thought of my co-worker, whose life was senselessly extinguished for reasons unknown.

You never know when that hammer is going to fall. Yesterday I had my family with me, in the sunshine, listening to the President. All the rest is bullshit.

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