The early part of this day found me wishing I was somewhere else. My email, facebook and Blackberry were buzzing with the two planned events of the day all of my friends were attending without me - the "Standing Strong For America" rally put on by the Conservative Patriots Group, the most active Tea Party group in the state of Alaska, and the Glen Beck event to be held in Anchorage later that evening. I spent the morning texting and calling friends while on a road trip to Fairbanks. I was over 400 miles away and would not be able to attend either event. Everyone was excited and as the morning wore into the afternoon, I found myself feeling more disconnected from everything that was going on. Then, I had a reality check.
In a parking lot in Fairbanks was a car, a PT Cruiser, with murals painted on all sides and the back. It was a private vehicle honoring Marines and on one side was the picture of a Marine saluting at a funeral. It hit me at that moment, on this day, that my desire to attend these events and be with friends had overshadowed the importance of the day itself. This is a day to hold sacred, to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and to never forget. I will never forget and let us pray this nation will always remember. In that spirit, and in remembrance, I'd like to share these images and thoughts, with the help of Julie Gillette. Julie is the current president of the Valley Republican Women's Club, the club I was president of until late June of this year when I relocated. Julie has done a wonderful job as club president. She is a true patriot, a female veteran like myself, a mother and wife, and I am grateful for her help with this post and most of all, her friendship.
The "Standing Strong For America" Rally in Wasilla, Alaska
This rally was held at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Complex in Wasilla, Alaska. Sponsored by the Conservative Patriots Group (CPG), it was billed as a non-partisan event to remember and honor the significance of the day. Several groups were invited and attended the event. According to Julie, Alaska Senate Candidate Scott McAdams was invited but did not return calls to CPG and was not in attendance. The Valley Republican Women's Club (VRWC) was in attendance, however, and had a table with information which was manned by several board members to include Carol Doner, Julie Gillette, Carol Ryan, and Jill Frost (pictured below).
Various media outlets speculated there were about 300 in attendance, but according to Julie Gillette, the actual number was around 450. "There were 400 chairs set up and they were full and there were a few people standing in the back as well as the volunteers," said Julie. I'm not surprised considering the fact that conservative event attendance numbers are often downplayed by the mainstream media. Here is a photo from the Anchorage Daily News confirming Julie's standing room only account:
The event began with a singing of the National Anthem by Adele Morgan, a very talented local artist (seen here with Julie's husband Glen).
Dick Stoffel led the Pledge of Allegience and then CPG President Jen Bettine kicked things off. Glen Beigel spoke briefly and then Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright spoke of his military service and reminded everyone never to forget the events of this day in history. Joe Miller then took the stage. According to the Anchorage Daily News report (ADN), "Miller said the nation was attacked on Sept. 11 'because we're American.' He said the U.S. is a threat to its enemies because of its 'exceptionalism,' its freedoms and constitutional restraint of government.
'We as a nation have been activated. We've been activated through 9/11. We're now activated in a political sense,' Miller said. 'We see a movement across the United States right now that is moving this country in a direction that restores foundations, that restores constitutional principles and makes us proud to be Americans again.'"
Sarah Palin was then introduced as a surprise speaker, to the crowd's delight. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for not just welcoming me in my hometown but for being who you are, true patriots holding on to time-tested truths. Knowing some basic principles that again the rest of America I think can learn from so many Alaskans who believe this -- those time-tested truths that are based on the government that governs least governs best," Palin said (according to the ADN report
The mood of those in attendance was described by Julie:
"There were definitely a few tears through the slide show and silence as people relived the day of the attacked. The bagpipes and the timing of playing them at the end of the slide show left many with wet eyes. I was hanging in there until he started playing. Adele Morgan’s beautiful rendition of the National Anthem was amazing. It also created some watery eyes. Mood was mostly positive and upbeat, especially when Joe Miller and Sarah Palin spoke."
The event lasted about 2 hours and then Julie described a special moment for herself and her husband Glenn:
"I had Glenn take a picture of us at the table before it got really busy. We were not initially going to try to get pictures with Sarah because she was swarmed with people. After the crowd died down, someone motioned to Carol Ryan that we should run over and get pictures before she left. Glenn has taken several pictures of me or our group with Sarah over the past 10 years. He finally got one for himself. We’re so glad to have had the opportunity because she was not able to stick around for the Glenn Beck Meet & Greet, she had a plane to catch."
I agree with Julie in that the CPG did an amazing job putting on this event. Here is the picture with the group, and with Julie's husband Glenn. Also included is an ADN photo of Joe Miller Speaking to Glenn.
Finally, video courtesy of the Alaska Dispatch:
Glenn Beck comes to Anchorage
Alaska conservatives and Glenn Beck supporters were anxious to see Beck in Anchorage. The doors to the Dena'ina Center were opened and thousands of people who were standing in a line that wrapped around the building, started to file in. Julie said she saw many people she knew, but also many new faces in the crowd of attendees. Kristan Cole, who tweeted earlier that she had been invited to sit with the family, was up front, along with Sarah's mother Sally Heath and other family members. Chuck Heath was not present, however. According to Sally, he was moose hunting! (it is the season here in Alaska).
There were also a few protesters. "They hid behind masks and some blamed George Bush for 9/11. As a retired Air Force member, that loses me everytime," said Julie. "There was a lady with a sign saying not to vote for Joe Miller but she was peaceful and we told her what makes this country great is she has the right to hold that sign." She also described the reactions of those waiting in line to get in to these protesters. "The people around me either ignored them or laughed but it was that laughter followed by the sentiment that we knew these guys would get more press than the actual event. There was a reporter in the room that we heard say to another reporter, 'Look at all these fanatics!'"
First Sarah introduced Glenn, they spoke together, and then Glenn spoke. The mood during the presentation was generally upbeat and acknowledging. "(There was)Cheering, heads nodding in agreement. Eagerness for information, quiet, you could hear a pin drop when he spoke of serious issues and applause to take the roof off when he spoke of smaller government and us taking care of our neighbors so the government doesn’t have to," said Julie.
Near the beginning of the event, as can be seen in one of the clips below, there was a heckler. It has been widely reported that conservative radio talk show host, and former Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, Eddie Burke assisted in "removing" this disruptive attendee. I spoke with Eddie earlier this evening and he gave me his version of the event:
"I was sitting in the front row one seat from the aisle, in front of the stage and Sarah as she was speaking. There were a lot of people coming forward and snapping pictures and then going back to their seats, so at first I didn't really pay much attention to this woman. She appeared to be in her 30's. I'm not sure exactly where she came from, but she stood there and then yelled out "You're a hippocrit!" directly to Sarah. Everyone started booing her. I was within arm's reach of her and the booing was so loud I couldn't hear what else she said, but she was still talking. I stood up and moved toward her, and to use one of Sarah's lines from one of her speeches, I said 'Quit making things up!' At that point, Sarah pointed to me and said 'Thanks Eddie. Eddie Burke, folks.' Security came and they escorted her out. I got a kick out of Sarah's comment about us all knowing each other here, and then Beck made the reply about it being like a high school gymnasium. Afterward, many people came up to me and shook my hand. Many of them asked me when I would be back on the radio and told me that they missed my show. Even more folks commented that they voted for me in the recent election. It was, I have to say, pretty humbling."
Joe Miller was also in the crowd and up front with Sarah and family. Per Julie, "Many times the crowd yelled out 'Joe Miller will get us back on the right path.' Sarah mentioned he was there and there was huge applause for Joe. She promoted him, but the crowd also yelled his name when discussing solutions to America’s problems."
I asked Julie what Glenn Beck's main message was:
"Faith – find a religion and be grounded with the Creator. Hope – we can turn things around but each one of us has the duty and responsibility to make that happen and it is hard work. Don’t sit on the couch channel surfing. Get out there and serve. That brought is to Charity, tithe, join a church and tithe. Serve your neighbors. We are the largest contributors as a Country, we give more than all other countries combined. Give so the people are not owned by the government. And, did I mention he really doesn’t like Woodrow Wilson?"
Here are a few of Julie's photos from the Glenn Beck event:
A packed house, again despite media reports
Gayle Ann, Julie, and Eddie Burke
Julie, Sally Heath, and Gayle Ann
Glenn and Sarah
Glenn during his presentation
There was a meet and greet with Glenn Beck afterward. Julie and Eddie both described their experience. Per Julie,
"Each person got about 30 seconds with him and there were about 250 people. He was so exhausted. I was in the last group. Poor guy had flown all this distance, spoke all night brilliantly, then had to sign his name 250 times. He made sure he personally shook everyone’s hand. I was given two challenges, one to get a picture of him wearing a club shirt. Well, 30 seconds did not allow that so I decided instead to just give him the shirt for an autograph to be used for fundraising. So,the consolation prize was to have him in a picture with the shirt. The other challenge was to get a picture between my 2 favorite Glenns. That was a no brainer! I did tell him I was president (of the club) and that Sarah and her family were inspiring and that I appreciate him including her tonight."
For Eddie, it was also a brief encounter. "I'm a member of AA and so is he (Beck)... He said. "It saved my life." I responded, "Mine too."
Julie said for her, it was the best day ever. "I was surrounded by American patriots. It gives me hope for a bright future. I met and got pictures with my 2 favorite rock stars, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Our Founding Fathers live in the people I was privileged to participate with today. It was an honor to be part of the CPG event and an honor to shake the hand of a man that is willing to take a stand."
Although I was not there, I am grateful for the friendships events like these have brought me, and they help me remember what being an American is all about. Faith, Family, Freedom. What more does one need?
Below are a couple of videos that have already been widely circulated on the internet. They are from Nina Stone, a facebook friend of mine who was gracious enough to allow me to use these, even before they went viral. Nina is a talented writer, and I know there are many of you out there who are interested in all things Alaskan. Here is a link to her latest Alaskan novel, On The Wings Of Love. Please check it out!
Video of Sarah's introduction of Glenn Beck
Video of Sarah and Glenn, including the moment with that wonderful heckler
To view other posts from Tracey Porreca, please visit Finding Myself In Alaska