The blazing sun that overcame some people waiting to hear President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton shifted to a downpour Tuesday afternoon as Obama’s speech concluded.
Crowds began to gather in the morning for the 3 p.m. appearance at the Charlotte Convention Center. As the doors opened and the earlybirds got in, MEDIC treated 19 people outside for heat-related problems, including seven taken to area hospitals. Another 12 were treated or taken to hospitals for problems inside the center.
Lynn Anglin of Lake Lure almost fainted outside and had to spend some time in an ambulance to cool down. One inside, Anglin and her husband Lee Helmer were pressed to the back of the room, with very little to see. But they could sense it, they said. History was about to be made.
“I wanted to witness it,” she said. “This felt like my last chance to see President Obama speak in person, and I'm excited about Hillary.”
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Her husband chimed in with anticipation. “The first black president and the first female president on the stage at the same time. Think of it.”
The presidential motorcade arrived around 3 p.m., and an event worker said everyone outside would likely get in, even if it was only to overflow space. A rainstorm rolled in after 4 p.m., as Obama was speaking, adding to the pedestrian and traffic challenges after the rally.
Many enjoyed the day despite heat and lines.
Drake and Kathleen Tunson, choir members from Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Charlotte, learned over the weekend that they would perform at the rally. They and about a dozen other choir members on hand began practicing Tuesday morning.
At 1 p.m., pressed against an iron railing by the swelling crowd, they still didn’t know when they would go on.
Their two vocal selections had campaign overtures for both Obama and Clinton: “A Strong Finish,” and “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
Meanwhile, a small group from Christ Fellowship Church near Concord stood across College Street from the Clinton crowd holding protest signs.
“I want them to know Jesus, to repent, and I want them to be saved,” said Pastor Ante Pavkovic. He said voters are “deluded and deceived if they are going to support these evil politicians.”
“We are protesting Hillary and Obama’s sins and actions that are not godly,” added protester Jeremy Kirwin.
Some Clinton supporters shouted at the Christ Fellowship group, with police urging them to return to their side of the street.
But in most places the crowd was mellow. Among the throng was 19-year-old Lily Newton, who will be a first-time voter in November.
“We’re excited about the fact that we could have our next woman president,” she said. She said she was also happy that Clinton’s email scandal is somewhat resolved so politicians can focus on issues of greater importance.
Catherine and Jim Nesbit, both 72, drove from Wilmington and ended up near the end of a long line. Catherine Nesbit said the experience will be worth it even if they don’t get in, because Clinton is “the real thing.”
“She’s been behind health care. Behind education,” Nesbit said. “It’s not something she’s showing off to the public.”
Kevin Poirier, a science teacher at West Charlotte High School, said he’s glad Obama and Clinton chose Charlotte for their first joint campaign appearance. He said he supported Obama in 2008, but this year could have gone with Clinton or Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders.
Poirier said voters should research Clinton rather than relying on the perception that she is untrustworthy and inauthentic.
“There’s a lot of subconscious gender bias going on,” he said. “I say that as a privileged white male who’s reflecting on his own bias.”
The visit was Clinton’s second in two weeks to what’s expected once again to be a battleground state. It’s her first visit to Charlotte since a March 14 rally at Grady Cole Center, a day before she won the state’s primary. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, will be in Raleigh Tuesday evening.