Sitting under a shade tree at Arlington Cemetery, Barb and Larry Tillett were grateful for a slight breeze after making the trek from the Lincoln Memorial where the Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" event had ended a little after 1:00. They still had an hour to wait for their bus to pick them up for the return ride to the central Shenandoah Valley.
Barb was hot after the long walk in the mid-day sun with temperatures in the 80s, a "typical hot and humid" day in DC, she said as she mopped her brow with a handkerchief soaked in water and sipped from a "Restoring Honor" bottle of water, one of several they had picked up for hydration and as souvenirs.
They had left early, at 5:00 Saturday morning, making stops along the way. Even with the pre-dawn start, their bus arrived later than many others -- "We should have gotten here by 7:00 or 8:00 to get a good spot," she laughed -- and, by the time they walked from Arlington Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial, it was 9:00, barely an hour before the event was to begin. A huge crowd was already in place, spread across the National Mall, and few open areas were left around the jumbotrons. They eventually found a spot in the shade at the only jumbotron that was anywhere near them but the crowd was so dense there was little air and they moved on to another place where there was sound but they could not see.
However, the lack of actually being able to see Glenn Beck in person nor the late summer DC heat dampened Barb's enthusiasm for the event as she recalled the program especially the soldiers who had served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam who were introduced by Sarah Palin. Martin Luther King's niece was very inspiring, she said, and the bagpipe playing "Amazing Grace" brought tears to the eyes of many in the gigantic audience. Glenn Beck, she added, was inspirational and uplifting as he called for Americans to come together, bring God back into the public square, and be involved.
Billed as a non-political event, the audience had been asked to leave protest signs at home. A few flags, American and Gadsden, dotted the crowd. Many advertised with their tee shirts ... "AMERICA," read one while another had an American flag and others showed off a variety of messages in what appeared to be a mostly conservative crowd.
Controversy broke out earlier in the week when news sources reported August 28 as the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech that took place at the same location as today's "Restoring Honor" event. Rev. Al Sharpton, who publicly disagreed with Beck's event, led a Saturday afternoon rally at a nearby high school that was billed as the "Reclaim the Dream" rally, seemingly unaware that Dr. King's niece was participating with Glenn Beck.
At least 1,000 buses were registered with "Restoring Honor" organizers, buses that spent the afternoon reloading passengers to head back to the places they came from across the nation. A final tally of the crowd by Park Police had not been determined but was sure to be impressive.
Meanwhile, the Tilletts were looking forward to boarding their air-conditioned bus for the trip back home to the Shenandoah Valley, content they had witnessed an historic event.