- - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Go figure. Two Saturdays ago, over 10,000 enthusiastic Trump supporters gathered for a rally at Regent University in Virginia Beach — just days after the mainstream media claimed the Trump campaign was pulling out of Virginia and conceding the state to Hillary Clinton.

I never imagined in my lifetime I would experience an election in which the stakes would be so high, or one in which American liberties and freedoms, those intended by our forefathers, would be threatened. So when I learned that Donald Trump planned to host a rally in Virginia and was not, in fact, throwing in the towel, I breathed a sigh of relief. However, the euphoric moment faded as I realized that once again, I had been blindsided by the liberal media. And even more infuriating, I knew all too well that the unethical reports aired by the networks wouldn’t even warrant a slap on the wrist, just as the candidate for whom they go to any lengths to protect is immune to consequences. Right then and there, I decided I had suffered in silence for long enough. I was determined to make the four-and-half-hour road trip to attend the rally in Virginia Beach.

On the day of the rally, I was filled with anticipation as I made the 240-mile trip. It turned out to be a beautiful autumn day, and the traffic was moving at a steady pace as I caught glimpses of brilliant leaves in hues of scarlet and gold. I was particularly looking forward to connecting with others who share similar views because as the only conservative member of my extended family, as well as an instructor at one of the country’s numerous liberal-run colleges, my opportunities to speak with like-minded individuals are generally limited to daily one-way conversations with radio talk show hosts.

As I finally pulled into Regent University, I was unexpectedly taken in by the sprawling, quaint, tree-lined campus. I was equally surprised to find a parking space so quickly, but the mystery was solved when I learned the rally was taking place at library, located on the opposite end of the campus. Yet the weather was ideal, and I was content to walk after the long car ride.

When I finally approached the library, I was directed to a large tent where attendees were waiting to be cleared by security. Once my huge straw bag was thoroughly searched and I managed to walk through the metal detector without setting off the alarm, I was escorted into a large courtyard. Several vendors, peddling shirts, buttons and bottled water were spread out under large shade trees, while thousands of fans mingled peacefully in all directions, including “deplorables” representing all age groups, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities and religions. I was especially intrigued with the number of children in attendance. The atmosphere was reminiscent of a family reunion, a far cry from the unforgivable acts of violence that the mainstream media associates with Trump rallies. Ironically, two Clinton supporters were accused of trespassing on private property and were escorted out after attempting to arrange a counter news conference prior to the rally.

After purchasing a pink “Adorable Deplorable” T-shirt, I made my way toward the stage, which was already surrounded by rally-goers. Since I was alone, I was able to gently inch through the crowd to weasel my way to the front. Suddenly, a group of women clad in “Women for Trump” shirts warmly greeted me and carved out a small space for me in front of the security gate. They were extremely welcoming, and we exchanged humorous banter as we waited for the rally to begin. As the crowd grew thicker, I noticed that the back of my legs kept pushing up against an empty fold-up chair, and after many failed attempts to politely move forward, the owner of the chair asked if I’d like to have seat. I gratefully accepted his offer, and we quickly became acquainted. For the first time in weeks, I began to feel like myself again.

When 3 p.m. arrived, the Rolling Stones tunes faded as Pat Robertson opened the rally. Mr. Robertson emphasized that he wishes to expose Regent students to a variety of political views and has invited all presidential candidates to speak at the school. Next, a few local candidates spoke, and then as fans awaited Mr. Trump’s arrival, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a surprise appearance. In between joyful shrieks from the crowd, “America’s Mayor” pleaded for change and entertained the audience. Finally, Mr. Trump took the stage and spoke for several minutes as thousands of “Trump-Pence” signs dotted the field. Spirits especially soared following Mr. Trump’s call for term limits for members of Congress. By the end of the rally, I couldn’t find my voice.

If I had only attended a rally months earlier, I could have discovered some resources to avoid suffering in silence. I’m sure I’ll continue to lose sleep over the direction of our country, but at least I know now that I’m not alone.

Ellie Mercier is a college writing instructor at Community College of Baltimore County.

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