Emotional Day Ends in Jubilation for Some, Stoicism for Others

D.C. residents rejoice after hearing that Senator Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States of America. Video by Pierre Kattar/washingtonpost.com
By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; 9:50 AM

When history landed, it was with car horns, tears, gunfire and echoes from historic corners of the city.

In a heavy drizzle shortly after midnight, several thousand people filled the barricaded segment of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets in front of the White House dancing and chanting "O-ba-ma!" and "Whose house? Obama's house!" Some sang "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

At 14th and U streets NW, hundreds of Sen. Barack Obama's supporters chanted, "Yes, we can!" People danced on bus shelters. Strangers hugged.

And Greg Rhett emerged from the Madison Hotel, pumping his fist as tears welled.

"Now the healing begins," said Rhett, 50, a consultant who lives in Ward 7. Now I can tell my 4-year-old you really can be whatever you want to be," he said. "We're going to get it right this time." Behind him, his wife, Candace, screamed at the top of her lungs:

"President Obama!"

Election night ended an extraordinary day in the Washington region, one charged with deep emotion and a vivid sense of history. Older African Americans wiped away tears as they cast their ballots, overwhelmed by the reality that in their lifetime a man of color was at the threshold of the presidency. Some went to the polls with icons linking them to loved ones: a poll-tax receipt, photos of long-dead relatives. Many brought their children to bear witness.

For Sen. John McCain's backers, the evening was subdued and sober. In a half-filled room at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Republicans watched the returns with stoicism and perspective.

"What do I think? The sun will come up tomorrow," GOP volunteer Linda Schmidt said. "I hope there will be a level of coming together. It's a challenging time for all of us."

There was also bitterness. "What language do they speak in Kenya? Maybe I should get a book," said Ed Sellman of Falls Church. "I'd sure like to see his birth certificate."

"I guess there're not too many plumbers in Ohio after all," said Robert W. Farquhar of Burke. With McCain's prospects ebbing, Republicans in Fairfax County turned their hopes to keeping Democrats from winning a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats in the Senate. "No 60 votes!" Del. David B. Albo said. "Then you know you're reaching low for a reason to party."

A few minutes after Fox News called the election for Obama, the bar was ordered to close and the big-screen TVs were turned off. "McCain should sue for all the votes stolen by ACORN," said Alex Sutono of Vienna. "I don't believe those numbers. It's not over. It's not over."

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