The Republican front-runner makes an historic campaign stop at Stephan Decatur High School – and we are there!
That’s why it was so jarring to be in Berlin on April 20, to witness what could have been a Fourth of July-sized gathering on the grounds of Stephen Decatur High School, where hundreds of people were lured by the unprecedented spectacle of a fleeting appearance by the one and only Donald J. Trump.
This Republican race for the White House is already fascinating enough by virtue of Trump’s participation – the defiant political outsider with his billion-dollar Manhattan real estate empire, declaring unironically that he wants to make American great again.
But when that celebrity circus rolls into your little town – on less than two days notice, to boot – how to characterize the inherent off-the-charts electricity and anticipation? Aliens coming to Earth and landing on the high-school football field might have gotten less hype.
Outside the school, long before Trump even showed in his motorcade, thousands of supporters already had arrived. Many of them were giddy with excitement and disbelief. Others had gathered to protest Trump and his political platform. And of course, there were people who simply showed up to take it all in, the sheer once-in-a-lifetime-ness of it all.
Despite the festive atmosphere, there also were reminders that, for some, this wasn’t a party. Secret Service and blue-shirted TSA agents manned the metal detectors and bag checks. All around, stone-faced police officers in flak jackets were on crowd control, tasked with the solemn duty of ensuring the safety of a bona fide presidential candidate.
News reporters penned in the back of the sweltering high-school gymnasium kept checking in with each other: When will he get here? Has his flight landed? He’s landed! The motorcade is on its way!
Classic rock tunes blared from the speakers. With the hint of an entrance, heads swiveled to the front of the standing-room-only gym, and countless arms clutching smartphones shot into the air. "WE WANT TRUMP! WE WANT TRUMP!" they chanted.
And then he appeared, stepping to the lectern above the crowd, on a platform beneath state championship banners and the words "SEAHAWK PRIDE." Trump waved and smiled, bathed in bright white light for the benefit of television cameras on the other side of the room. He spoke for 45 minutes, without notes or a TelePrompTer, stopping along the way for raucous applause breaks as loud as any event the auditorium had ever seen.
“I’m ready for a businessman to run the country,” said Frank Willing of Salisbury. “I think he’ll make a great president. I don’t know when the last time a president came here, but my wife said Jimmy Carter came to Salisbury 40 years ago.”
Brian Korman of Ocean Pines, a Trump supporter who attended the rally, said he simply didn’t believe it when he heard the candidate was bringing his whistle-stop tour to Berlin.
“I had to see it on national news. I said, ‘Where do I get the tickets?’ He doesn’t pull any punches. I’m not a big political guy, but he calls 'em like he sees them,” he said.
John McClelland of Salisbury said he was pleased that Trump was even willing to come to the Lower Shore, because, "That says a lot about the candidate.”
“This is a heavily conservative area – Mitt Romney won this area big – and he doesn’t have to come here,” McClelland added. “But he’s showing his commitment to reaching out to all parts of America. Frankly, this turnout, it’s huge.”