Yes, I was there. My friend's fiance was out of town and she invited me to be her "date" for the ticketed portion of the rally in Grant Park. We had a quick dinner and a pint at the Emerald Loop, then headed over.
The weather was perfect. The mood in the air was festive but a little anxious. There was a shared look on peoples' faces, a hopeful expression, a knowing smile that here was another kindred spirit who had made the choice to believe in hope rather than cynicism.
One thing that struck me was the sheer diversity of the people in attendance, much more so than any Republican Rally that I'd seen on TV. Everyone I spoke with seemed to have a bit more intelligence and wit than that average Republican crowd (ie: no one screaming "socialist", "terrorist", or "kill 'em").
We were at the third checkpoint when they called Pennsylvania for Obama and I became quietly confident.
We had just entered the rally when they called Ohio, I started to grin. It was over. People were afraid to say it, there was almost an unspoken worry about jinxing the election, but mathematically I knew it would be impossible for McCain to come back after this point.
Then Virginia turned blue. We realized that this was actually happening. After California closed, Grant Park exploded into triumphant cheers that would make the spirits of MLK and JFK proud!
McCain's concession speech wasn't bad. The sentiment where I was standing was that if this had been the way he'd run his campaign from start to finish, the race would have been much closer. There were a few cheers when we saw Caribou Barbie crying though, and I heard someone, seemingly in the spirit of Eric Cartman, cry out "Palin's tears taste delicious to me!"
Obama's speech, his call to service as it were, was perfectly timed and delivered. It basically said, "We're only just getting started." I could barely make him out from where I was standing, but the jumbotron provided a great picture. His face looked at once both glad and grim, as though he was realizing the enormity of the task before him. Was glad to see Joe Biden and their families out on stage. Pictures of Jesse and Oprah crying were touching.
Before he left, Obama gave a final wave to the crowd in my direction, and, though I feel like a corny little kid writing this, it felt magical.
It was like someone had sprayed Happy Gas throughout the city.The crowds outside the rally were jubilant, a little wild, but with an almost surprising lack of hostility or anarchy. Loved walking around downtown.
I was so exhausted that it didn't really hit me until I made it back to my apartment late into the night. Before going to bed, I watched will.i.am's "Yes We Can" music video. It was then I realized what had just happened, that freedom, caring, and intelligence had actually beat out jingoism, hate, ignorance, and greed. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that we actually might have a chance in this world to make things better.
To echo what we were all crying in Grant Park last night.
Yes, we can.
Yes, we did.