Nearly 25 hours after she first arrived, Kelly Waters met the woman she had waited night and day to see.
At 5:15 p.m. Friday, Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, walked into Mardel, a Christian bookstore at 71st Street and Mingo Road.
The line of supporters that snaked along the store’s aisles cheered. Waters stood at the front.
The 32-year-old, self-described “Reagan conservative” from Mustang arrived at Mardel with family members at 4:45 p.m. Thursday. They and a group of about 15 other Palin supporters braved 30-degree temperatures Thursday night so they could be first in line to meet Palin and have her sign a copy of her new book, “America by Heart.”
In all, 500 people were guaranteed Palin’s signature.
Hundreds of others waited outside – often reading Palin’s book – for a chance to meet the Alaskan, who made her third trip to Tulsa in less than a year.
“As soon as I found out that she was coming to Tulsa, I said nothing’sstopping me this time,” Waters said.
That meant spending the night in hand warmers and a sleeping bag and visiting QuikTrip and a nearby Waffle House to warm up.
Waters, a computer programmer, said she missed meeting Palin during her visit to Norman in December 2009 and wasn’t going to let that happen again.
It was at that 2009 book signing in Norman where Robin Anderson of Claremore first met Palin. She was hoping to meet
her again Friday and brought a photograph of their first meeting for Palin to sign. Also in the photograph were Anderson’s daughter and granddaughter, who like Palin’s son Trig has Down syndrome.
“I think she’s true blue, and she tells it like it is,” Anderson said of Palin. “She’s an inspiration to me.”
Anderson said Palin inspired her to run for the office of Rogers County assessor. And even though she lost, Anderson said that she’ll continue to seek public office. She hopes Palin will, too.
It’s likely that most of the people at Mardel hope Palin makes another run for public office.
Some wore Palin buttons and hats, while others stood on bookshelves trying to get a glimpse of her.
“She fascinates people,” said Gilles Mingasson, a French photographer for the magazine Paris Match.
Mingasson and Match’s U.S. bureau chief, Oliver O’Mahony, followed Palin from her book signing earlier this week in Arizona to Friday’s appearance in Tulsa. They’ll continue to follow her into Nebraska and Iowa and perhaps longer, Mingasson said.
At Friday’s signing, Palin sat at a table in the rear of the store. She sounded cheerful as she chatted with supporters, often asking their names and how they were doing. Her daughter Piper handed out bookmarks.
Palin spent a few minutes speaking with Connie Sorrell of Edmond. Sorrell was with her 13-year-old daughter, Darlene, who has Down syndrome. Her son is a Marine serving in Afghanistan. Palin also has a son in the military.
“It felt good,” Sorrell said. “I think she related to Darlene. We had a little moment.”
Waters, too, had her moment with Palin. But just seconds after meeting Palin, Waters’ thoughts were racing too much to recount their conversation.
“You want me to remember what I just said?” Waters asked. “It’s a blur. I’ll probably remember it later.”