I am so tired right now that I actually feel hungover.
I wanted to Twitter more often last night, but I just got too swept up in everything. It was one of the greatest, most inspiring nights of my life.
All day I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldnâ€™t differentiate it between pessimistic anxiety and optimistic anticipation. I snuck out of work a couple of minute early so that I would have enough time to scarf down some cold chicken before heading off to the train station with my husband. The reality of how big the turnout was going to be started to show itself on the train. People of all ages and races walked through the train cars or sat in their seats proudly wearing their Obama gear and â€œI voted!â€ stickers. I knew it was going to be a special night, regardless of outcome. Every conversation going on around us had something to do with the election, either on a national or local level. As the train pulled into LaSalle station, I could feel the butterflies acting up again.
We walked down Congress towards Michigan Avenue. As we walked, people were selling all sorts of Obama merchandise. The closer we got, the more people we could see, all funneling in the same direction. Once we got to Michigan, it was a sea of people. We were directed to the right, the non-ticket holders were directed to the left. From what I could tell, even those without tickets were still very much a part of everything. After a decent sized wait, NUMEROUS I.D. checks, and a run through the metal detector, we were in! We walked up to the wall of people in front of us and planted ourselves in the spot we would remain in for the next several hours. There was a HUGE television screen playing CNN coverage to our left. There was even a CNN correspondent with her camera crew about twenty feet in front of us. (Whenever CNN would throw the broadcast to her, our entire section went crazy.) The stage was in front of us. The city skyline, behind us and to our right.
Chicago has a love for showing its pride through coordinated lighting in the windows. Through the years, the lights have said things promoting various sports teams or charitable causes. Last night, it was all about the election. One buildingâ€™s light spelled out USA. A couple of them were American flags. Still a few more went the simplistic route and just lit up with red, white, and blue.
More and more people packed in. News choppers flew overhead. Every direction I looked, there were reports interviewing various rally-goers. The excitement grew and grew. And THEN they started announcing projections. With every Obama/Democrat announcement there was an eruption of applause. With every McCain/Republican one there were boos mixed with things like â€œYeah, but we expected that one to go that way.â€ Any nerves that I may have had were quickly melting away. Thenâ€¦Pennsylvania! Everywhere around us, it was written on the faces. Was this really happening? Delight grew as CNNâ€™s analysts said the Pennsylvania projection was â€œdevastatingâ€ for McCain. I couldnâ€™t tell if time was flying by or creeping at a snail-like pace. It was all a blur.
OHIO!! It was ours. We knew it. We were about to witness one of the most profound moments in American history. I started to feel the emotion well up inside me, pitting in my throat.
At about 9:30 it just became a waiting game. I must have checked the time on my phone every thirty seconds. 35 more minutes until California closes. 25 minutes. 15. 14. 5. As the final minutes ticked away, someone came on stage for a final soundcheck. â€œCheck 1, 2. Check 1, 2. Final soundcheck for the next president of the United States.â€ The crowd went crazy. When the clock read 9:59:50, the crowd began a countdown of the last ten minutes. With almost no hesitation, CNN had breaking newsâ€¦BARACK OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT! The noise was deafening. People screamed. Some cried. My husband hugged me and high-fived the man next to us. At that moment, I was once again proud to be an American. Through the celebration I even realized that I was a little disappointed in myself. I had truly underestimated my fellow Americans. They came through for me last night. And I will never forget that.
Music played and people danced. I suddenly forgot about the shooting pains in my knees as I bopped around and sang. After a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem, it was time for our new president to take the stage. The new first family was announced. When Barack, Michelle, and their daughters took the stage, I was overcome with emotion. Throughout this campaign process, I kept telling myself that people who thought race was important were ignorant. The reality is, race was important â€“ just in a different way. I was standing there in the middle of Grant Park watching America crown its very first African American president. I canâ€™t wait to tell future generations that I was there. When kids read about it in history books, I will have been a part of that. We have evolved. Itâ€™s amazing, overwhelming, and inspiring. Between the occasional â€œYes We Canâ€ or â€œObamaâ€ chant, you could hear a pin drop while our new leader was speaking. Cameras flashed. Tears flowed. Smiles beamed. We have a long, hard road ahead of us. I am not going to assume that Barack Obama is going to fix all of our problems, but I do know that I am very optimistic that our country can now move forward in a lot ways.
I had goosebumps throughout Obamaâ€™s speech. And I believe I was standing on my toes for all 15+ minutes of it. As long as there wasnâ€™t a camera obstructing my view, I was able to see him from where I was standing. I will never, ever forget that moment in time.
When we finally decided to leave, there was an endless sea of people with the same idea. Slowly but surely, we made our way back to Michigan Avenue. I have never, in my twenty-five years living in the Chicagoland area, witnessed Michigan Avenue shut down to traffic and overflowing with glowing, cheering masses as I witness last night. It did not stop their either. Congress, State, and a few other major streets were shut down in honor of our celebration. Amazing. The train ride home was a bit of a blur. Likely because I dozed off a couple of times. (Hey, it was a LOOONG day!) When we finally got home, before beginning our limited night of sleep, I turned to my husband and said, â€œWeâ€™re going to be having kids soon. And I am so proud to be able to bring them into this world, to be able to tell them that we were there for that historic night.â€ He just smiled and nodded, feeling exactly the same way.