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Student welcome wagon greets Texas leader

Oct. 17, 2000

By NORA FROST

Reporter

Several Bears gave their idol an impromptu homecoming greeting. About 22 students gathered Friday night to welcome Gov. George W. Bush back from the campaign trail.

Peter Sandel, a Big Lake senior, gathered a group of students and other political supporters in less than an hour's notice. Although he could not disclose the specifics, Sandel said he discovered through an Austin contact that Bush would be landing at Waco Regional Airport Friday evening.

Upon arrival at the airport, the group whipped out its 'Bush-Cheney 2000' campaign signs and one homemade 'This is Bush Country' sign.

'We just want to welcome him home,' said Jack Long, the deputy director of Students for Bush-Cheney 2000 and a Texas A&M University student.

The students shared chants that they thought would be appropriate to celebrate Bush's arrival. Students seemed eager to express their excitement by taking pictures and speculating about what would happen.

Then, for the first time in 20 minutes, there was silence. An airplane was landing in front of the runway the group had staked out.

'Do you think we should give him a T-shirt?' someone said, referring to the governor.

'What about Laura? What size is she?' Sandel said, referring to the first lady of Texas, Laura Bush.

'She's an eight,' someone answered.

'Y'all, this is him!' said B.J. Goergen, Texas director of Youth for Bush-Cheney 2000 and a Round Rock senior.

A pickup truck made its way down the runway.

'OK, don't forget. We are going to go, 'Students for Bush,'' a student reminded the crowd.

They decided that Bush's exit from the plane would cue them.

'Take a picture of the plane!' someone said. Several flashes went off.

A white 757 airplane with a navy blue belly and a 'Bush-Cheney 2000' logo turned its nose toward the crowd before its engines were shut off.

People started exiting the plane. The students started yelling, waving and jumping.

The governor led his entourage toward the crowd. Secret Service men and other personnel walked near Bush.

'Bears for Bush! Bears for Bush!' the students chanted.

Once the governor reached the fence, he shook eager hands that were thrusted at him.

'How are you? Thank you for coming out. It's good to be here,' Bush repeated as he went down the row shaking hands, being blinded by camera flashes and signing autographs.

'It was a good week,' Bush said.

Sandel and Birmingham, Ala., senior Leah Harrelson gave Bush two 'Bears for Bush' T-shirts.

A Suburban drove a few yards away from the fence. A window from the second-row driver's side was lowered.

'Hi, Laura!' a student yelled.

The first lady of Texas poked her head out.

'Hi, y'all,' Laura Bush responded and waved.

Airport bystanders joined the Bush groupies. The bystanders had to compete with the students who would get back in line to greet the governor again.

'We better go back out to our place. Good to see you,' Bush said as he walked away.

Students revived the 'Bears for Bush' chant as the governor left.

'I just love him,' Meg Harris, a Waco senior, said about Bush. 'I think he is so moral. I think if he is elected, our nation will go in a whole new direction.'

Some students stayed behind to relish the moment. Others raced each other to Wal-Mart to develop their film.

'I was so overwhelmed,' Harrelson said. 'It was really exciting.'

Bears for Bush is an organization recognized by Students for Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.

Bush will debate Vice President Al Gore at 8 p.m. tonight in St. Louis in the last of three commissioned debates.

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