Thursday, November 06, 2008

Our moment

I am not really able to post eloquently about my feelings about the election just yet.  I will have much more to say about it in the weeks to come.  Suffice it to say, I am overcome.

But I will post a bit about my experience at the rally in Grant Park and my front (2o0th) row to history.  

I arrived downtown around 5:15 and joined the "Have Tickets" group, happy to be part of the first giant cluster of people.  We basically gathered en masse and were efficiently herded through various checkpoints and barricades.  We stood for a while in the middle of the street, then we moved a few blocks, stood for a while longer, moved a few blocks, and then made it to the row of giant metal detectors.  After that, we were in the park and could basically roam free.

Obviously we hurried toward the stage.  We secured a place about 250 feet (I think) from the podium, and we also has a good view of the Jumbotron, which was broadcasting CNN.  It was about 6:00, and we settled in for a long night of standing in one spot.  The crowd grew and grew, so there really was no going anywhere.  People quickly started chatting and being friendly with those around them, making for a very cheery atmosphere.

By the way, the weather was perfect: clear, a bit breezy, mid-60s.  Uncharacteristically warm for a November evening, thank goodness.

Anyway, as the state-by-state returns started coming in, the crowd became more and more excited.  CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux was standing about 10 feet from me, and whenever she went live, we went crazy so Wolf and the gang could not hear a word she said.

The biggest cheer of the night (up to that point) came when Pennsylvania was officially called for Obama.  We all collectively knew then that this was our night.  I was getting text updates from my brother, who was at home flipping channels, and from a guy in front of me who had his Blackberry refreshing MSNBC.  Other stations were less conservative about calling states than CNN, so the crowd around me knew that states like Ohio and Florida were called before CNN announced it over our loudspeakers, but our pre-knowledge did not quiet our cheers when then these announcements were finally made.

The rally did not broadcast CNN's commercial breaks, which was nice.  Instead, we were treated to some fun music piped over the loudspeakers until the ads were over, and the crowd danced and sang along.

Side note: At about 9:00, the physical pain really set in.  My lower back was shooting fire down my legs, my legs were completely stiff, and my feet were throbbing.  Standing still in one place is not a pleasant experience.

But, we were keeping track of the electoral map, and we knew that at 10:00 Central Time, Obama would have enough votes.  So when CNN declared him the winner at 10:00 exactly, we went crazy.  Deafening cheers accompanied the frenzied jumping and hugging.  People embraced strangers, and many people (I won't say who) may have started crying tears of joy.

A very moving moment for me came when Bill Bennett (yes, Bill Bennett, arch-conservative CNN commentator) said, "This is a great country."  That may have triggered some tears.

I stood in rapturous disbelief for quite a while at the history I was witnessing.

And then came John McCain's concession speech, one of the best speeches he has ever given.  It was heartfelt, gracious, humble, and well-delivered.  The crowd at Grant Park immediately recognized the change in tone in McCain, and applauded appreciatively as he spoke.  (Except when he mentioned Sarah Palin, when everyone booed.  But that was the only time.)  This was the John McCain who should have been running for president.

And then the big moment came.  At about 11:00, our man came to the stage.  I could see him clearly (through people's raised arms and cameras), and after the rapturous applause, he held our attention like no one I have ever seen.  His speech was powerful, yet solemn.  He knew the enormity of the moment, and he knew the gravity of his task.  As he spoke about being the president for everyone, we all sensed his sincerity.  And when he spoke about the changes that the 106-year-old voter had seen in her life, my eyes welled up again.

I am so honored that I was a first-hand witness to this historic event.  This was a moment I will never forget, and this crowd all felt the same thing--something intangible, unexplainable, but palpable:  Things have changed. This country feels different now.  Something big has happened.  And I was there to see it.


At 11:26 PM, Blogger undulatingorb posited...

Oh, I wish I could've been there too!! Though all the standing may have killed me.

On a completely different note, you should check out the band Clare and the Reasons.


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