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First lady’s speech draws thousands

Crowds wait in line to see first lady Michelle Obama at Whalen Gymnasium at Fort Lewis College. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Crowds wait in line to see first lady Michelle Obama at Whalen Gymnasium at Fort Lewis College.

People queued up in a line that wound around campus before first lady Michelle Obama’s speech today.

Meanwhile, local officials from the city of Durango and Fort Lewis College were busily making final preparations.

The line circled around the college’s central courtyard. People were passing out water as attendees slowly made their way through security and were allowed in the gym.

Anna Mae Lewis, of Alton, Ill., who is celebrating her 76th birthday, said she is here visiting her son who lives in Durango and he got her a ticket.

“I never would have thought that I would be here on this day to see the first lady. I’m going to listen to some good words,” she said. “I probably won’t get to see something like this in years to come so its very special.”

Although a majority of people in the line were women, the men, too, were eager to see her.

Farrell John, 39, a Navajo from Durango was holding a sign “Native Americans for Obama.”

“If I were going to put it in one word I would say nizhoni,” he said, referring to the Navajo word for beautiful, awesome or good.

He voted for the first time four years ago after hearing then-candidate Barack Obama talk.

Sari Salisbury of Durango said she is delighted for the opportunity to see the first lady.

“It’s great that we had someone way up there that came here because we’re out there, we’re off the beaten path. I’m glad she’s here,” she said.

Elizabeth Somers, of Durango, said she hopes to hear Obama speak about abortion and reproductive rights as well as equal pay and the international plight of women

“It’s so important. She and her husband are about the values I think America needs. And she is a women and I think that women are getting shafted,” she said. “Just the fact that she’s here is impressive. It seems like Southwest Colorado gets forgotten about.”

About six people, most from Farmington, were at the campus clock tower holding Romney-Ryan signs. One called it a peaceful walking campaign.

“I love our country. I think the only way to take it back is to vote Romney in,” said Andrea Buchla, of Farmington.

Secret Service were in position on the roof on the gym.

Obama is scheduled to begin speaking about 5 p.m., but organizers recommended attendees arrive early.

The gym doors opened at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are required for entry into the event.

All 3,500 tickets were given out by Sunday, said Denise Bohemier, chairwoman of the La Plata County Democratic Party.

There are no formal road closures around Durango, but there will be a “rolling closure” with the first lady’s motorcade, said Sherri Dugdale, assistant city manager and the event’s public information officer.

Crowds wait inside Whalen Gymnasium on the campus of Fort Lewis College to see the speech by first lady Michelle Obama. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Crowds wait inside Whalen Gymnasium on the campus of Fort Lewis College to see the speech by first lady Michelle Obama.

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