By Leslie Radford: CNJ Staff writer
Janice Brown was up at 3 a.m. Friday, peeking through the blinds at her home off of Commerce and Pile streets to see what the commotion was going on outside her window.
“There were already people out walking around,” she said. “I was looking for media, mostly, but I couldn’t believe there were people already here.”
They were there preparing for the Base Realignment and Closure hearing that took place later Friday morning at Marshall Junior High School.
By 7 a.m., hundreds if not thousands of people had lined Commerce Way and Prince Streets to greet BRAC commissioners as they were escorted by law enforcement vehicles to the hearing.
Officials said about 5,000 flags were displayed along the route from the commissioners’ hotel to the school, along with thousands of “Operation: Keep Cannon signs” that have been displayed around the community since the Department of Defense on May 13 announced Cannon Air Force had been targeted for closure.
Brown sat with her family waving American flags in support of Cannon as the large Whirlwind bus transporting six commissioners drove by about 8 a.m.
People stood with their dogs, who also held flags in their mouths, under a sign on Commerce welcoming the BRAC commissioners.
For miles, various groups and individuals held large banners, flags and home-made signs, making up cheers in support of keeping Cannon. Quest phone service employees lined up their utility trucks at the Corner of Prince and Commerce and raised their buckets with the American flag. Hospital auxiliary members were waving flags and a banner. Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts stood in front of Marshall next to flags that had been posted at the entrance of the parking lot.
“If the base were to close, I would lose a lot of business,” said Andrea Lupo, owner of Sparkle Cleaners who holds the dry cleaning account for the base. “So, I’m out here supporting the base to support me!”
Law enforcement from Roosevelt and Curry counties and the state were on guard as interested citizens sporting “Operation: Keep Cannon” gear sat along the curb or in lawn chairs before the hearing as bus after bus shuttled supporters from the North Plains Mall to Marshall.
Patrice Caldwell rode over on the Portales shuttle with a group from Eastern New Mexico University.
“The base is a vital part of our community,” she said. “We’re out here to show our support of Cannon.”
After the parade, people rushed to the front door of the junior high school to get there in time for the hearing.