The Unforgettable Night of November 4, 2008

My friends Matt and Megan each secured connecting "Spectacular" suites at The W hotel, where I would watch the election returns before heading to the Grant Park Rally. Hannah and I biked down there because we knew the El and cabs would be a mess, driving was certainly out of the question, and the weather was nicer than anyone could imagine for Chicago in November. The rooms were quite nice and drinks were flowing. I participated in a beer run in which a bar/liquor store (closed for the night) re-opened briefly to sell us wildly overpriced cases of Budweiser and High Life ($24 each). If anyone tells you there's nowhere to get carry-out booze in the loop at night, tell them about the White Hen on Jackson and Desplaines I discovered minutes after being ripped off by Cal's.

Back at The W, states were rolling in swiftly for Barack. I didn't look like he could lose, but it wasn't until Ohio went blue that we decided it was a done deal and started our brief walk up the street to Grant Park. The vibe was nervously excited as we cruised, surprisingly swiftly, through security and onto Hutchinson Field. Perhaps it was because we had personalized tickets, and the background checks came through without a hitch, that they only checked IDs and bags (apparently the non-ticket holders went through metal detectors on the way into their section).

Photo by Carmen. Full set here.

Just before settling on a spot to watch history, CNN, blaring sight and sound across Grant Park, called Virginia for Obama. We all screamed with joy then decided to take advantage of the porto-potties just to our left before settling into one spot for the night. A minute later, I'm in the john doing my thing when the crowd explodes with excitement. Barack Obama was declared president elect. I carefully and quickly zipped up and ran out onto the field with my friends to celebrate.

Here's the countdown to the west-coast poll closing culminating in CNN's calling the election for Obama. Other countdown videos here.

After minutes of cheering and upbeat music, a sound tech's voice came over the system "sound check for the next president, check for president-elect Barack Obama". After a prayer by some bishop and a few words by someone else (sorry, for the lack of info, but the Bishop's words were great) a singer (who's name I also don't know) came out to sing a powerful version of the National Anthem. After this we said the pledge of allegiance and the Obama family hit the stage. We could only see the back of the stage, but it was cool enough just to be on the field with so many people exploding with happiness about what had just happened. Obama's speech was excellent, as always. I liked how much he emphasized the role we would play in the next administration. Focus on serving one's community is one of my favorite things about his message.

"It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today."

We headed out quickly after he finished. Everywhere around us people were crying tears of joy and smiling uncontrollably. It was an unforgettable night in so many ways for me. I've never supported a winner. I've never been so passionately excited about my candidate. I know he won't work miracles, but I am very hopeful that if anyone can fix this hurting country, it is Barack Obama.

That night on the bike ride home around 12:30, the Chicago streets were quiet as can be. Like me, I think the city was emotionally exhausted and ready for a peaceful and satisfied night's sleep. In my inbox the next morning I found some nice message from friends. Alex says:

Thoughts as I go to bed.... There comes a time in your life when you cannot understand why things are the way that they are. There comes a time in your life when you look at the past and try to figure out what you can do to change things. There comes a time in your life when you are soooo damn frustrated that nothing seems possible. It was a speech, a victory, and hopefully a change that happened tonight. What I witnessed was hopefully the beginning of an era of hope. An era where we can all come together and work on our weaknesses and strengthen our faults. Who knows what tonight will bring.....but I will tell you my friends - - - I'm at peace. Good night to you all. I hope the tequila was strong and the beers were cold....and your rides at the L were awaiting. God Bless Obama

Kelly says:

Dear Family and Friends, I hope you all had a wonderful celebration last night. What an exciting time for us!!! I can't decide what I am feeling: relief, hope, excitement, anxiousness... No matter what it is, I am very proud to live in a country that finally made a bold and right choice. My friend Eric sent this quote from Ethan Bronner, a NYT reporter from Gaza and I wanted to share it with you all. "From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth—call it America—where such a thing happens." Happy Day to all of you...High Fives...Hugs...HONNNNKKKKSSS!!! Love, Kelly PS. Anyone want to join me in DC on January 20th!?!

Megan, who spent a number of months working for the campaign in Ohio (and her work paid off) had this to say about her election night:

Election night here in Cleveland, Ohio was filled with groundbreaking disbelief, joy, and relief. I spent my evening celebrating with the canvassing team I joined about a month ago. By the time we reached the tiny bar in Ohio City we had all been reduced to puddles; our knuckles were swollen, our aching legs and feet could barely carry us to the bar stools, and our nerves were frayed from countless heated discussions with total strangers. The only thing pulling us into the bar was a tiny thread of hope reeling us in; hoping that tonight America would be victorious. They announced that Obama had won two of the five swing states he needed to carry the election, and Ohio was next…we held our breath, tears already welling up in people's eyes, not sure if they would be drops of joy, or tears of pain. OBAMA WON OHIO!!! A tidal wave of people splashed together, embracing the family of canvassers that Obama had built here in Cleveland. We cried, screamed, smiled, laughed…and when all that settled, I took the longest, deepest breath of relief and let it out into a country no longer piloted by fear, but one full of hope.

Craig at Threadless put together this great wrap up of the night.

If anyone hasn't yet, please check out this election night Flickr set from the Obama photographer. The shots are awesomely personal.

Here's the the night in 10 minutes from the TV watchers perspective.

The Trib put together this time-lapse video of the rally from start to finish in 3 minutes. Very cool.

Oh and perhaps you'd like to watch the excellent acceptance speech in it's entirety, Hulu's got a nice high quality version right here.

Well done America.

Check out my November 4 day in Indiana here.


Joe said...

Great post Stiles.....an unbelievable night in Chicago, and around the country.

Shannon Darling Dearest said...

Well done America and Stiles!

Sarah said...

amazing post. thanks for this!

dapeen said...

nicely done Tim. it was worth the wait ...o and I was waiting for your post on this

Kelly said...

Obamarific. Wish I had been with you all in Chicago that night but the crowds were roaring out in Seattle too. Let the Change begin.