Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History in the Making

There are so many thoughts and feelings, it's hard to put it into words. But I'll try.

Anticipation. Riding the choo into Ogilvie station, the feeling already started to build. A train full of people, eagerly awaiting what we hoped would be the announcement we were waiting for.

Overwhelmed. Arriving at Grant Park, you just could not believe the people. Everywhere you looked, wall to wall people, standing together in hope. Black, white, rich, poor, straight, gay, young, old ... none of that mattered. We were more than just a group of individuals. In those moments as we gathered, we represented for one another the very best we expect from our country.
Support. Friends stood with friends, strangers became acquainted, hugs, smiles and stories were shared. My dear friend Jessica (or Shakespeare, as I like to call her) and I danced to the music, cheered with the crowd as results began to come in, and soaked up the atmosphere.

Excitement, for each other and for all. One way or another, however this election turned out, America was going to be different. At one point in the evening, Jessica looked at me and said, "We're gonna have a new President, and I hope it's a black one!" I think she spoke for all of us in that moment.
Joy. Before we could really get our bearings, the announcement came. All eyes were glued to CNN's coverage on the jumbotron and we heard the news - Barack Obama has won the presidency. The cheers were deafening. The joy palpable. Our hope had become a reality. And as we began to settle down, it was almost as if no one knew quite what to do. I have never seen a celebration quite like it.

Then, this image caught my eye. A little girl, perched atop her father's shoulders, waving an American flag. This, I thought to myself, this is why we're here. This child, witnessing history happening around her, brought my thoughts to the children in my life, and how hopeful I am for their future.

Peace. It was tough to get a signal on my phone, but the one call that did come through was from Ryan, and I could hear the joy in his voice as we celebrated from Chicago to Champaign. And it started to wash over me ... my Marine, my brother, my friend will have a new Commander in Chief. While this cannot guarantee his safety, and I will always hope that he will somehow end up in a wacky branch of the Marine Corps that cuddles bunnies instead of tanks, I am at peace in the knowledge that he and every member of our armed forces will soon be led by a man whose agenda is not self-serving. I have a renewed hope for the men and women who truly put Country First.

Disbelief. Hundreds of thousands of people, and not a single fight broke out.

Pride. Hundreds of thousands of people stood and listened to a prayer to begin the festivities. We stood with hands over our hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegience. We sang our National Anthem. We eagerly waited for the next President of the United States to take the stage.

When President-Elect Barack Obama took to the podium, it was to the resounding chant of "Yes We Can." I looked around at people smiling, crying (yeah, that was me,) hugging friends, calling family, and hearing the very first public address from our next President. Oh, yes, we can. Sometimes we have to wait, sometimes the wait is difficult, but yes, indeed, we can.

Tired. We'd been standing for hours! Following Obama's speech, the music began to play, and the people began to disperse. What a happy bunch of tired and thrilled people! We sang along to Bruce Springsteen, we held hands and cried a little more, we marvelled at having just seen our future unfold before our very eyes. We stopped to take a picture of a couple on the very edge of the park. This was the gentleman's third election, he explained, as he had come here from India in search of a better life. He and his wife thanked us and wished us a good evening as if we were old friends. And then, we turned and headed for the street once again.
Community. The scene on Michigan Avenue was surreal. People as far as the eye could see, smiling, walking, making their way back to real life, stopping for a photograph with a Chicago police officer, stepping over poop from the police horsies, walking together chanting "Obama" and "Yes We Can." Looking up at one of the buildings, you could see they had illuminated the windows to showcase the letters U.S.A. Even the buildings were happy last night.

Even more tired. This morning, it was hard to shake myself awake. Four hours of sleep isn't nearly enough! But I'd do it again in a heartbeat. There is no way to accurately portray what it was like to be in Grant Park, to share in this experience. All I can really do is echo the words I heard last night.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."


Tori Carlson said...

SOunds like your night was just as amazing if not more than mine... I know I'm a cryer too! It's ok, we can cry together! love you mags!!

Charlie and Cindy said...

I am so proud of ALL my kids and their awareness of the world around them. I got to talk to Aurora, Normal, Tucson, Champaign and Springfield came to me. I wish I had been able to use my ticket to the gathering.

maggie said...

It was pretty stinkin' amazing, that's for sure! You would have loved being there ... I'm glad I was able to bring a bit of it to you! Talking to Champaign and Tucson from Grant Park was wild beyond measure. Tough as hell to get a signal, but when I could, I was dialing!

I am gratified to be part of a family that celebrates their relationship to the world, values one another and just basically rocks. I love you!

jpb2525 said...

Well Put. Absolutely amazing. I wish I could have shared that special moment with you both - however, I was able to share that special moment with my mother-in-law, an elderly African-American Lady who wept with me, simply saying over and over..."I never thought I would ever see the day that a black man would be my President...I wish my mom were here to witness this"

God Bless the U.S.A., we have finally made it to the 21st Century! WELCOME!