The call from a friend rang in on Mark Crider’s line at around 10:00 a.m. Tuesday: President Trump was going to be in Corpus Christi at the firehouse across the way.
“He said, 'The Secret Service knows there's about 100 loaded guns in your house and they know you'd let them use ’em if they need to,” Crider said, relaying the gentle ribbing of his longtime friend.
With Trump expected in about an hour, Crider rolled his wheelchair out front, planted himself next to a fence and waited.
The cop cars came in droves, filing out to the road, eventually closing it off in anticipation that the president of the United States would soon roll through.
It wasn’t long before Crider was joined by hundreds of people, a typical Trumpian mixture of protesters, enthusiastic supporters and curious passersby who crowded the streets to catch a glimpse.
Corpus Christi, population 300,000-something, is a relatively small community in Texas. And Annavile is an even smaller neighborhood where just about everyone knows one another and word spreads fast.
"We’ve lived out here forever you might say," Crider said. "I guess they started calling one another. And a lot of our friends showed up — old classmates."
News that Trump would arrive at a local firehouse spread like wildfire over the next few hours. Friends called friends. Cars of people passing through stopped, then parked further down the road as their occupants trekked back to the fire station to check out the commotion.
Quickly, Crider was joined by friends, neighbors and hecklers curious eager to see the man who had dominated their televisions and newspapers for two years.
“This is nuts — he’s literally down the street from us,” said one man who hustled through the growing crowd gathering around the fire station as his friend recorded their adventure on a live Facebook video. “We see this man everywhere on the news constantly, and he’s here.”
Walking down the closed streets were hundreds of others, parents and their children, grandparents — all on a pilgrimage to see the spectacle.
Back at the Annaville Fire Station 5, Crider’s wife, Sandra, had brought out her “Make America Great Again” flag, which became an anchor for Trump supporters who were being penned in with police tape as local officers and Secret Service agents kept a watchful eye.
Word had spread on social media though live video and pictures, by word of mouth as police officers redirecting drivers informed them that the president would be here soon.
Annaville, a small Texas community that rarely receives presidential visits suddenly had something very important going on.
“The people just started getting wind of it and they showed up,” said Samuel Dalton, a local Republican Party official, who had received a call the day before Trump’s visit asking him to drive a van in the presidential motorcade. “It was just remarkable and everybody appreciated very much the president coming and trying to get a feel of what are the needs.”
Around 12:45 p.m., Trump emerged in his signature "USA" campaign hat and the crowd exploded in chats of “USA! USA!”, “Texas Strong!”, and “Trump! Trump!”
It had the feel of a rally because in a sense it was one.
“Thank you, everybody. What a crowd! What a turnout!” Trump remarked from his perch behind two black SUVs that the Secret Service had carefully positioned in front of a firetruck.
Trump had chosen Corpus Christi, located in a county he had won over Hillary Clinton by a sliver in 2016, in an effort to avoid taxing local law enforcement who were busy rescuing stranded Texans in the path of the monster storm.
Dalton, who only knew about the firehouse visit when the motorcade rolled onto the street, said he was "pleasantly surprised" to see the crowd turn out for Trump. He chalked it out to the strength of support among Trump's core supporters and a feeling of solidarity among Texans reeling from a disaster of historic proportions.
Back in the thick of the gathering, he could be seen, but not heard. Snipers stood watch on the roof above, scanning the swollen crowd.
“What is he saying? What is he saying?” a voice called out.
Others began trying to call for quiet: “Shhhhhhhhhhh!”
Trump was speaking through a microphone, but no one could hear a thing.
Observers watching the footage on television would remark the the president failed to mention the victims of Hurricane Harvey’s wrath, only his crowd size.
For the mixture of supporters and onlookers, however, they could only see Trump, standing in front of a firetruck, waving a Texas flag.
A few minutes later, Trump was back in his van and with a wave of his hand, and as quickly as he had appeared, he was gone.