Emotional Day Ends in Jubilation for Some, Stoicism for Others
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
When history landed, it was with car horns, tears and echoes from historic corners of the city.
In a heavy drizzle shortly after midnight, several thousand people filled a 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!"
At 14th and U streets NW, hundreds of Sen. Barack Obama's supporters chanted, "Yes, we can!" People danced on bus shelters. Strangers hugged.
"Hope! Change!" Rashod Winn, 19, shouted as he danced through the crowd, his arms raised above his head in triumph.
Greg Rhett, 50, a consultant who lives in the District's Ward 7, walked out of the Madison Hotel ballroom pumping his fist as tears welled. His wife, Candace, 43, was behind him, jumping in jubilation and screaming at the top of her lungs, "President Obama!"
Rhett said he had memories of growing up under Jim Crow segregation in Charlotte. "Now the healing begins. 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."
It was an election night that 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 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 a more sobering affair. In a half-filled room at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Republicans watching Fox News took 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."
But the emotional center of gravity last night was with Obama supporters.