Last night, in Grant Park

Last night comes back in a rush of memory: standing in line for more than an hour to get into the rally, shuffling as one pack through security check after security check, this windless 60-degree autumn night is so perfect — did we order it on a platter? How did we get here? The strangers around us seem less like strangers; if someone says something funny, others in earshot turn and laugh… the metal detectors are so close now. We can see them. We’re not moving. Hey, there’s Kevin’s friend Evan, let’s squirrel our way forward. I check for my ticket and ID compulsively, every few minutes I finger the creased print-out of an email that would be my ticket. This crowd is everyone ever, every skin color, every age. A little black three-year-old on a white guy’s shoulders, elderly women linked arm-in-arm, a blind black man whispering in his wife’s ear, hipsters without cynical shine, whoever you are, you are here and your smiles are electric. Finally in the park now, and the crowd is a flood of sound and camera flashes. It is the energy of a football stadium times five, where we are all on the same team. We’re watching for results on the billboard-sized screen, cheering for each blue state, rub my back — we’ve been standing for hours. CNN gives us our shot of “projections” — do we believe them? Pennsylvania: YES. Ohio: YES. Countdown to the polls closing… hold my hand now… waiting… waiting for California. Then out of nowhere: Barack Obama, President, filling the huge screen, and the entire crowd is ONE SCREAM, high-fives to strangers, hugs here and there and there, stunned, tears, stunned. Overheard: “It happened, ma. It’s a new hope.” “This is our generation’s turn now. He’s what, twelve years older than me?” Waiting for the speech. Waiting for the speech. McCain concedes, music plays — surely he’ll walk out any second… other speeches, the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem… is this real? Are we allowed to be proud of these things tonight? The woman singing the anthem flubs a few words, at first we are annoyed but then realize, screw it, let’s all join in and so we do. Waiting for the speech. Then at last, Obama — and the speech that makes us tear up, that makes us chant “Yes we can” — the one that says we’ll be listened to, that things will be hard but that we will do this together. Really? Are we here now? After the speech shuffling through the crowds again out to the streets — losing Kevin, finding Kevin — and we can’t take trains so we decide to walk as far as we can. The walk down Michigan Ave is the biggest, happiest, most unified parade of people. Some were predicting riots, this is a riot of the heart, I have never seen anything like it. “Did we get Florida?” a white-haired woman behind me asks her friend… “I don’t know,” is the reply. I turn around: “We got Florida.” They are so happy. “And Virginia?” Yes, I say. A woman on the corner leans drunkenly against a lamppost repeating “OBAMA!” and high-fiving everyone she can. She wraps me in a hug as I pass. Walking, walking, we are all the parade and this is really happening.

8 thoughts on “Last night, in Grant Park

  1. Amazing. This gave me chills. I wanted to be there last night, kept calling all my long will it take us to drive to Chicago?

    Thanks for sharing, I forwarded this to all my friends and you made us feel like we were there.

    OBAMA! Yes, we can!

  2. Hello! I came upon your post via a friend’s blog- this is fantastic!! It gave me chills just reading it. Thank you for chronicling this!

  3. I am SO excited that you were there! I was watching on TV, of course, and I kept thinking of you, wondering if you were there. I am so jealous – what an amazing night – I cried, sitting up in bed on a lake in the middle of nowhere Maine; I can’t even imagine how incredible it must have been to see it live.

  4. Beautiful Linz! People asked me afterwards what it was like…awesome? I’m bummed that we never found you guys in the crowd.

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