Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
It was a typical Halloween Day in Southwest Florida; a gentle breeze blew in from the west; temperatures were in the high seventies; and the sun shined everywhere. Halloween days like these herald the arrival of great trick-or-treating weather in Florida as the sun sets and the temperatures dip into the low seventies.
What could be better than trick-or-treating in paradise?
For many, it was a Donald Trump rally.
Yup. Donald Trump was coming to Fort Myers to speak at the Germain Arena in Estero, and thousands responded by ditching their candy and trotting over to watch President Trump speak.
I was one of them.
The trek took us about an hour and a half, but we still arrived on location about five hours prior to the advertised start time.
Parking had already been exhausted. We ended up finding a space at a nearby mall about three-quarters of a mile away from the arena. Grateful for the space, we grabbed our MAGA caps and were on our way.
professionals. All around us was the sound of vendors enthusiastically calling for folks to buy MAGA hats and T-shirts, and reminding us that cashlessness was not an impediment to purchasing power.
But our walk would come to a precipitous stop about half a mile away from the stadium, as that's where the waiting (and the fretting over our chances of getting in) began.
In front of us was a group of high school students, one of them a senior getting ready to study mechanical engineering, and the other a junior and a future electrical engineer. They were excited to see the President and were exchanging ideas of how incredibly beneficial Trump had been to the economy, and to the prospects of them making money. But when their conversation turned to Ben Shapiro that's when my wife chimed in, and that was it. The two hours wait flew by.
Within moments, the distinction of being last in line was dispelled, and soon I could no longer see the end of the line as it coursed behind me, seemingly endlessly.
The Line Starts To Move.
For the next hour, the line only crept forward, but at four o'clock, the time the doors were scheduled to open, the sun-kissed crowd began making its way into the building.
Of course, we were so far away, there was no way we could tell that the doors had opened, but we knew something favorable was happening as the speed or our progress improved from a crawl to a slow walk.
Want," and "Gonna Fly Now" all blared through the massive, concert sized speaker system in the parking lot. And once we got to the parking lot, we were met with a giant jumbo screen playing messages and highlighting businesses. And despite the numerous warnings for us not to hurt a protestor, not a one was seen.
Of course, the bad news for us and for our odds of getting in was that the long, but straight line back in the street had evolved into a Disney-styled, meandering queue that snaked its way around the parking lot before getting to its destination.
But the turns gave us the opportunity to meet more people. A professional couple attending their second Trump rally because the first one had been so awesome. A somewhat crazy guy who had run for Florida governor and wouldn't let the rest of us forget about it. A pair of retirees from Massachusetts grateful for the warm weather.
And of course, police officers!
Brave men and women, armed with guns, and shielded by their bullet-resistant vests. Some of them wore shirts labeled "BOMB UNIT" checked the discard packages, and OPENED ABANDONED WATER COOLERS WITHOUT CRINGING!
I thank God they were there.
After a few conversations, we were at the front door, emptying our pockets and walking through the metal detector.
The Germain Arena is a hockey stadium. Yes, we play hockey in Florida, albeit indoors. Upon entering it, we were given the choice of standing in the rink and closer to the President, or sitting at the bleachers. We chose the latter, which placed us about two-thirds of the way back.
Once again, the people were amazing! They were generally folks you just wanted to be with.
I found myself sitting next to a military veteran who was making his sixth Trump rally, having attended one in Tampa, one in Melbourne, two in Sarasota, and one in Orlando. He was so proud of our President and the support he was giving the military. He could not wait to hear Trump speak again.
The President Takes The Stage.
We sat for about two hours before the festivities began, and the National Anthem played. Absolutely everyone stood proudly, honored the flag and strongly recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
And then the President arrived!
the beginning. Perhaps it was because he had delivered the speech so many times, or maybe because he was tired. But it took him about five minutes to get the juices flowing, but once he did, it was vintage Trump.
At one point he asked who had voted. More than 95% of the crowd enthusiastically raised their hands. Clearly befuddled, he asked the question again, and then a third time, each time with the same results peppered with cheering and hollering. After the third round, Trump smiled, looked down towards the rink and exclaimed, "Then what the hell am I doing here?" His astonishment was met with a resounding roar.
Yup, the Lightning had scored again!
The Fort Myers Trump rally was the first one I have attended. Yes, I have watched many on television. I have seen countless snippets, but this is the first one I've actually been present at the stadium.
It felt like a Tea Party meeting. The same wholesome, patriotic people who feared the direction the country was taking back in 2009 were largely the ones who populated the arena that Halloween night. They were people who loved the flag, loved the National Anthem, and wanted nothing but the best for a nation they adored. They had come seeking fellowship, renewed strength in the fight for the nation's future, and most of all, they came seeking a voice. A leader that would deliver their message and stand by it come hell or high water.
That night, they found it in Donald J. Trump
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.