WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Saying his campaign has always been about people and noting he has received millions more votes than any other candidate, Donald Trump didn’t disappoint the more than 11,000 supporters at the Mohegan Sun Arena Monday evening.
Using a word many used in describing the event, Trump said, “This place is amazing.”
Trump claimed thousands more were turned away at the door, but the ones who got in were loud in their support of the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president.
Heather Gilligan stood on the arena floor waiting for Trump to arrive. She brought her two daughters, Erica, 9, and Nora, 3, to see the man she feels will be the next president.
“I think he can run the country,” Gilligan said. “He has all the skills needed for the job.”
Gilligan said she never thought any candidate would draw a crowd the size of the one that came out to support Trump, especially a Republican in Democratic-heavy Luzerne County.
“He has the backing of everybody,” Gilligan said. “He has united everybody.”
Herb Pearson, a retired teacher, said, “The establishment doesn’t realize that they are the problem, not Mr. Trump.”
Prior to the doors opening at 4 p.m., lines stretched in both directions around the building. A woman collapsed and was immediately attended to by emergency personnel. She gave a thumbs up as she was taken for treatment.
Diana Noschang, 35, of Newburgh, New York, wore a button that read, “Hot chicks for Trump.” She said the notion that women dislike Trump is “a huge, fat lie.”
“There are millions of us,” she said.
Noschang said she likes Trump because he will keep America safe.
“People are sick of the same old politicians,” she said. “We’re tired of getting the runaround. With Trump, our voices are being heard.”
More than two hours before Trump’s speech, people of all ages — from teenagers to senior citizens — filed into the arena to support the candidate they feel will be true to his campaign slogan — “Make America Great Again.”
Andy Shecktor, a candidate for delegate on the Republican ticket, supports Trump. He said he has known Trump since 1970 and Trump called him to ask for his support.
“Trump will get things done,” Shecktor said as he handed out campaign cards. “He cares. He’s not a machine politician.”
And Trump had prayer on his side, as Noel Burke, of Lehighton, arrived with a group of nuns from the Order of Missionairies for the Eucharistic Christ.
“We’re here to pray for Mr. Trump,” Burke said. “He will get things done and done quickly.”
Inside, Mary Zona, a salon coordinator in Tunkhannock, said she likes Trump because he’s a fighter.
“He’s a go-getter and he will make America great,” she said.
Like many people in line and inside the arena, Zona said she respects the fact that Trump is financing his own campaign.
Nick Hannon, of Ashley, and Jillian Stopodzian, of Hanover Township, both 17, can’t vote in this election, but they are interested in the outcome and are pulling for Trump.
“This is our future,” Hannon said. “We have to care about it.”
Hannon said he and Stopodzian and others of their generation are approaching the most important years of their lives — starting college and seeking employment.
“Trump will be president during those years, hopefully,” Hannon said. “I think he’s the best of the options and he will beat whoever the Democrat is.”
Standing nearby were Tony Stianchie, 18, and Patrick Iezzoni, 20, both of Summit Hill.
“Trump is funding his own campaign and he’s the only one who speaks his mind,” Stianchie said. “And he’s not Hillary.”
Walt and Cynders Hunsicker, of McAdoo, said they want America back and Trump is the candidate to do that.
“Actually, we want the good, old America back,” Walt said. “The America where we honor the flag.”
His wife added, “We want the America back that our soldiers fought and died for.”
A group of students from Scranton Prep were positioned close to the stage. Elizabeth Kulick, 18, of Bear Creek, said all the Prep students at the rally are 18 years old and will vote in the primary and general elections.
“We’ve had so many years of politicians and we’re unhappy,” Kulick said. “And Congress has such a low rating; it’s time for change. We feel it’s important for young people to get out and vote.”
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, said he has never seen anything like the turnout for Trump.
“There is so much energy in here tonight,” Barletta said. “You can feel it.”
Barletta said the Trump campaign had received some 18,000 requests for tickets to the event.
“I think it’s pretty clear how much support Donald Trump has,” Barletta said. “He speaks for the American people — for the forgotten Americans who are drawn to him.”
A thread of red, white and blue patriotism ran through the crowd of thousands, as the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the National Anthem sung. A frenzy nearly broke out when campaign volunteers began passing out Trump for President signs to the crowd.
• “We protect many nations. Obama went to Saudi Arabia and Cuba and no leaders greeted him at the airport. If that were me, I would get back on the plane and get out of there.”
• “I got the slowest trigger of anybody, but nobody is going to play games with me. The Middle East is a big, fat mess.”
• When Trump — wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a red tie — asked whether the crowd was going to vote for him, his question was met with a roar of approval. “We love Wilkes-Barre; we love Pennsylvania,” he said.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.