Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!!!
Yesterday was a whirlwind for me. After voting, I had to go to two classes at school before heading over to the rally. After I met up with all my people, we walked over at about 6 p.m.
We entered the rally area at Columbus Drive. From there you could see the window designs in the Chicago buildings, including "Vote 2008" in the Smurfit-Stone's diamond-shaped roof.
After that, we walked down Congress Parkway to Hutchinson Field, where the rally was held. There were massive security lines, but I didn't really think the security was all that strict.
Once we got inside, it was time to run down to grab a spot in the crowd. This is where you finally started to see the enormity of the rally.
It was also about this time when we began to see returns for Virginia, which at that time was leaning McCain. For a moment there, we were terrified that the polls had shown false hope in Virginia and that the race would be closer than we thought. (Fortunately we would find out that that was not the case.)
We watched the election coverage on CNN, which was shown on jumbo-trons over the crowd. Naturally, we cheered strongly for every state that went to Obama.
However, not all that long after we arrived, the first real nail in McCain's coffin occurred: CNN called Pennsylvania for Obama. When that happened, the crowd really lost it for the first time. It was the first time in the evening that I cried, and it was the first time that we really began to realize that he would win.
Slowly, the results trickled in as the polls closed. We began to get exhausted, but when Virginia and Ohio finally went to Obama just before 10 p.m., we knew it was really over.
I cannot describe what it felt like to be in the crowd watching the returns for those crucial states. We have worked so hard, and to see the real results of that work come through in the election was marvelous. When Virginia and Ohio were called, I think I screamed louder than I've ever screamed in my life. Even thinking of it now makes me well up a little in my throat. Then came the news that we were waiting for with anticipation: the west coast returns had pushed Obama over the edge, and he was deemed the next president-elect of the United States of America.
The election results, and Grant Park crowd, shown on a jumbo-tron at the rally
At this point, obviously, the crowd went nuts. The whole evening was typified by periods of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme excitement. The crowd was jubilant, but always respectful and never rowdy. But when the final call was made, we jumped, we screamed, we cried, and we hugged. Many of us have waited eight years to be rid of religious right-wing rule. Others of us have been waiting our entire lives for a candidate we could finally get excited about. Most of us had done some level of work for Obama's campaign, whether it was volunteering or fundraising. And, of course, all of us were excited to have a home-town man in the White House at last. Of course, Obama himself came on at about 11 a.m. We had just seen McCain's very gracious concession speech and had danced to some music for about 20 minutes waiting for him to come on. We cheered, he spoke, and we cried some more. You have heard his speech, so I won't repeat it here. All I can say is that he and his family have most certainly earned a puppy.
I got quite a few photos of him, but I was about 100 yards away and it was pretty dark, so this is about as good as it gets. He is there in the middle of the photo, behind the wooden podium.
See more of my photos of the rally here, including more photos of Barack Obama on the podium and on the jumbo-tron.
After he finished speaking, we headed for the exit with the other hundreds of thousands of people. They basically shut down the southeast Loop area and we walked, sang, and danced in the streets. I laugh at those who thought we would riot - the whole event was so full of relief and catharsis, the participants were very calm and relaxed.
As we walked to the L, I was thinking that I will remember this election for the rest of my life. And more than that, I will always be able to say that I was there - I was with Barack Obama, the first black president, when he declared victory in one of the hardest fought presidential elections in history.
There have been plenty of times when I have questioned my pride in this country and its voters over the last eight years. For one, I'm ashamed of voters who have elected party officials simply on the basis of "god, guns, and gays." I'm ashamed of specific people who have sent me racist or ignorant e-mail forwards. I'm even ashamed today of the states who voted intolerant anti-gay statutes into law, particularly California with Proposition 8.
Despite all that, I am the proudest I have ever been of my country because of the trust it has placed in the relatively open question that Obama represents. I am proud that I, with so many others, helped him do it.