Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My experience in Grant Park at the Obama VICTORY RALLY!

I know some of you were jealous that I was able to attend the Grant Park rally, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts from the night! Unfortunately my phone did not get all the texts sent to me while I was there, due to, in the words of Mary Clare, the "excessive amounts of hope and joy" clogging the networks.

First off, we successfully talked our professor in to having class for only 45 minutes, just enough time to have one group presentation. Then my friend Emily and I boarded a semi-full (but hardly full) train downtown, where we met Jennifer and Tara at Adams & Wabash, and the four of us walked over to the park. There were so many people milling around, however it was difficult to know if the people actually had a ticket to the event or just wanted to soak in the atmosphere.

Security was tight, but not at all annoying. The crowd was big, but respectful and moved quickly. They had set up several checkpoints where you had to show your ticket and ID. We were told we would have to walk through metal detectors, but surprisingly there weren't any (were there?! I didn't see any.) We got inside quickly, probably 20 minutes (probably just before 9 p.m.), which is fast when you consider the number of people!

I've been to big events in Grant Park (i.e. - Lollapalooza, renamed for tonight as "Obamapalooza") but none that had all these people entering at the same time. We walked around the bend to the top of the little hill and it sort of took your breath away. The people looked like ants, all trying to find a morsel of space where they could set up shop to watch the historic events unfold.

There was only one Jumbotron in the park, so we were at the mercy of CNN and their timing. Luckily I had hired my mom as my text updater, so I was receiving periodic updates as to what the states were doing. The news of OHIO (I knew I loved you!) spread through the crowd like wildfire, but I was fearful. I quickly responded "How many precincts reporting? Is Cleveland in? Columbus?" to which a nice man said "NPR is calling Ohio for Obama", so I knew it was true (and I can't explain why, I think because he seemed so convincing?). At that point I was feeling good...OH, PA were blue. How exciting! NC was too close to call (and is a tie, as I write this), as was VA. We sort of settled in, with periodic cheers of "O-bam-a, O-bam-a, O-bam-a" (which sounds totally funny after you say it about seven times in a row) or "Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!", and otherwise just hanging out, trying to jockey for a good position.

The funny thing about being in such a large crowd is that I didn't really realize I was in a large crowd. Every time CNN would show shots of Grant Park, you could hear people around you murmur "Oh my gosh...that's us..." in disbelief. Since I'm not really tall, I could only see a little ways around me (we were packed in pretty tight, with maybe an inch of personal space in every direction), so my experience was sort of localized. It was, believe it or not, not even that loud. When we would put up a cheer anytime they called a state for Obama, it didn't seem like I was cheering along with 125,000 people, it was more like I was at a quiet THS hockey game.

The best moment of the night, however occurred just moments before 10 p.m. CST, when we started counting down until the polls in the west would close. Now since there was just one Jumbotron and we were only watching CNN, we really thought (or at least Emily and I really thought), we were just counting down to the closing of the polls in CA, WA, OR, etc. I knew CA has 55, Hawaii has 4 and we were almost guaranteed to get WA and OR, but I didn't think it was OVER. I knew they had called OH (20), PA (21), and FL (27) for Obama, and other states had pretty much fallen as predicted, but I wasn't putting too much stock in it because I can recall the disappointment of 2000. Not pretty. So, as we start the count down, "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4..." we are all a little distracted and were just sort of counting down for fun. So, we all cheer once we get to "one!" and then the CNN screen flashes "BREAKING NEWS!", followed by the declaration "CNN DECLARES BARACK OBAMA THE 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES"

Oh. My. God. The energy in the crowd was unbelievable! We were jumping up and down, my scratchy voice got scratchier due to my screaming, there were tears, etc. It is a difficult experience to put in to words!

I taped (yes, like on my VCR) the Channel 7 coverage and have been watching it since I got home, along with reading MSNBC, CNN, Huff Post, Fivethirtyeight.com, etc. WOW! Grant Park looked SICK! I am definitely going to purchase the papers tomorrow in hopes I can get a get photo to frame along with my ticket stub. :)

This is SO MUCH BETTER than 2004. :)

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