Area residents abuzz over Bush

August 18, 2004

If Bernie Earley was in a hurry, she wasn't letting it show.

Instead, Earley laughed when she realized she was last in line to use one of nine portable toilets in the middle of the football field at Hedgesville High School.

The wait didn't matter to Earley, who drove from Winchester, Va., with her husband, John, to see President Bush speak at a campaign rally on Tuesday.

Earley said her support of the president brought her out, even if it meant long lines for the toilet and traffic tie-ups.


"We'll just see him and hear what he has to say," Earley said.

Earley said she and her husband took a wrong exit on Interstate 81 and headed in the wrong direction. The couple had to backtrack and eventually made it to the rally.

Kathlene Blake sat comfortably with her legs crossed underneath her reading a magazine while waiting for President Bush to arrive at Hedgesville High School's Mumaw Stadium on Tuesday.

Her husband, Frank, who chose to stand, spoke of the president's campaign stop to the small town.

"I was excited," Frank Blake said. "It's not often we get the president up in Hedgesville."

Frank Blake said he and his wife left their home in Hedgesville at about 3:15 p.m., and with traffic and the shuttle ride from Parcel Direct, they arrived at the stadium about 90 minutes later.

"Everything was moving pretty good," he said.

As for waiting in the hot, sunny weather?

"It's warm, but it's not that bad," Frank Blake said. "And considering the event, it was well worth it."

He guessed the president would talk about the economy and the war in Iraq. Whatever he would speak about, Frank Blake said Bush has his vote.

"I support him and I don't support Kerry," he said. "It's kind of hard to know what Kerry's position is."

"I told my wife earlier I think the county's in trouble if Kerry's elected president," Frank Blake said.

Rebecca J. Davis clasped a medallion hanging from her neck bearing the elephant logo of the Republican party.

The medallion, she said, was given to her by her "dear friend" Josephine Bratina, who could not attend President Bush's campaign rally because of health issues. Davis described Bratina as a dedicated member of the Republican party.

"It's a tremendous memento," said Davis, who wears the medallion on special occasions.

Davis, a former president of the Jefferson County Republican Women's Club, said she attended the rally because she's a big fan of Bush and thinks he's a strong leader.

"With him I feel safe, and I sleep better at night knowing he is the president," Davis said. "And his father is a former president. He can get invaluable advice. So, we're actually getting two in one."

Hedgesville resident Kim Hatfield said waiting in line for two hours to be shuttled to President Bush's campaign rally was no sweat.

"It seemed like it took no time at all, because there was so much excitement and enthusiasm in the crowd waiting to see the president," Hatfield said after the rally.

Hatfield, wearing an American flag hat and a pin that stated "W 04" on her shirt, said she supports Bush's war on terrorism, among other issues.

"I think that having President Bush in office makes me feel safe and secure as an American citizen," Hatfield said. "I think it takes a lot of courage for him to take such a stand and carry it through."

- Tara Reilly

Neither heat stroke and a second-degree sunburn a week ago nor a busted vein in her eye a day earlier was going to keep Gail Brown from seeing President Bush.

Brown, 60, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., attended a pre-inaugural ball and Bush's inauguration. She said she noticed a positive difference after Bush was sworn in as president nearly four years ago.

"I actually felt a change in the whole atmosphere in Washington, D.C.," she said. "It's like the heavens opened up."

Although she said she probably should not have been outside, she combated it by wearing a white hat. She also had a white jacket pulled over her head.

"I just wanted to be here no matter what. It means that much to me," Brown said.

Those who wanted cold water at President Bush's rally could stand in a long line at the concession stand or make their way to two quieter tents behind the crowd.

About 50 volunteers there ranged from elementary school students to retirees. They poured gallons of water into paper and Styrofoam cups, placed the sloshing cups onto trays and made their way into the crowd.

Overseeing one tent was Kathy Wright of Inwood, W.Va.

"Our goal is to keep them hydrated and keep them off the ground," Wright said.

The tent also doubled as a rest station for people who needed to take a break from the heat and the crowd.

Wright, a fifth-grade teacher at Mill Creek Intermediate School, had a camera around her neck.

She planned to take lessons learned at the rally back into her classroom, where fifth-graders learn about American government.

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