I say “good fortune” because, whatever one’s political leanings, to be smack in the middle of the celebratory explosion of pure joy, pride and positive energy that engulfed the entire District of Columbia from 11:00 on Tuesday night until at least 4:00 the next morning was an experience never to be forgotten. It goes right up there in the memory bank alongside the rare handful of other life-changing events that have been seared in my brain as if with a branding iron: the day President Kennedy was shot, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, his assassination a few years later, the night my son was born, the morning of 9/11/01 when the “safe” world we thought we inhabited blew apart forever.
The day progressed normally enough as Board meetings go, culminating with a group dinner in Georgetown. We all returned to our hotel, when several of us decided we wanted to be where some action was likely to take place whenever the election results came in. So we turned to our one member who actually lives in D.C. and asked him where would be a good place to hang out. He dropped us off across town at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters, which had set up a huge tent with many large-screen TVs about the size of JumboTrons. We joined a throng of people that seemed to number in the thousands. Standing-room only, we stood transfixed, watching CNN as results came in. Around 11:00 p.m., when CNN projected Obama the winner, for one split second you could have heard a pin drop, followed by a collective intake of breath and then a virtual explosion of screaming, crying, laughing and hugging. We stayed through McCain’s most gracious concession speech and Obama ushering his family onto center stage where, in a very literal way, they will remain.
Then came more adventure than we bargained for. We exited the tent after midnight to find the streets in that part of town virtually empty of vehicles of any kind, especially taxis, which hundreds of other people were searching for as well. The Metro had closed at midnight. We called our hotel, which was many miles away, but they had no way to pick us up. We got wind of one last bus with a scheduled stop at 12:45 a.m., but we were advised that more often than not it didn’t come anywhere near that time, if at all. As luck would have it, we heard the bus approaching from several blocks away, because the driver was honking the horn incessantly. Hordes of us piled on board, and across town we went in what became what we dubbed the “party bus,” encountering more and more traffic as we went, everyone honking horns, screaming out the windows, dancing in the street. It was like New Year’s Eve and your hometown team winning all wrapped into one celebration. People on the bus looked after us, making sure we got off as close to our hotel as possible. The good spirits were infectious. I got to bed about 2:00 a.m., exhausted but grateful that I hadn’t spent the night alone in my hotel room watching TV.
Tues. November, 18 2008 01:27 PM
I just read your election day blog and loved it! My 16-year-old son just got his driver’s license, so on election night, I made him get in the car and drive me around the neighborhood honking the horn while I yelled “Whoo Hoo” out the window. I told him it was good training for driving while distracted. Luckily we were only going about 25 miles per hour, but unfortunately, San Diegans were not nearly as excited as those in D.C. and not everyone honked back at us. Regardless of party, it’s just wonderful to be part of the excitement and pride of an election. Inauguration days in Washington are similarly rejuvenating. When Bush I was inaugurated, I was in D.C. working for the city of Houston’s Washington Office, and met a woman who had run George H. W. Bush’s first election campaign for the House. Listening to her talk about those days, and hear her pride in seeing her candidate elected and inaugurated President just gave me goose bumps. Your blog revved up my engines again too -- thanks for writing your story!