Yes we can! Yes we did!

November 6, 2008 at 12:58 pm 2 comments

Congratulations Barack Obama, 44th President (elect) of the United States of America!!!

On election night I was one of the lucky few (70,000) that had a free ticket into Grant Park in downtown Chicago to hear Obama’s acceptance speech. It was an amazing night and an amazing experience. I’m going to try to convey some of that experience here through words and pictures.

Last week my husband Justin and I got an email from the Democratic Party. It was an invitation to the entire state of Illinois, inviting them to join Barack Obama on election night in Grant Park, all we had to do was say we wanted to be there. We both immediately emailed back and got tickets. They were good for you and a guest so I ended up taking our friend Tripp and Justin took Sarah S. We also went with Tripp’s wife Trish and her co-worker Sheba. We ran into some friends, Molly and Tom while we were waiting to get in, so we had a nice group of people to share the experience with.

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We all met near Grant Park at the entrance to the event. They had the whole park blocked off so we could only enter near the Congress Plaza. We had a good time hanging out and watching the MASS of people around us. On the way there, there were street vendors on almost every corner selling Obama signs, buttons, t-shirts, pictures and anything else. There were even Obama maracas! Tripp got himself a great T-shirt from one of the vendors:

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“Chicago’s in the house!”

In case you don’t know, that’s the Chicago city flag flying over the White House. I’m jealous of his shirt. Sarah was getting into the spirit as well, showing off her pride in having voted earlier that day:

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You can see in the background of this picture a funny looking banner. There were 3 women walking around holding up this HUGE banner in the crowd of people waiting to get in. There were no signs or banners allowed in the park, so I’m not sure what they did with it before going in, but here’s a shot of the sign so you can see what it said:

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Join the Obamanomenon…do do de do do.

We also of course had to have the obligatory Obama election night foot shot:

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The had blocked off the underground parking on Michigan Ave for the election night party. After the event though, Michigan Ave was completely blocked off and full of people, so you saw these people who had decided driving would be faster than CTA, stuck in the parking lot waiting for the people to clear. I bet there were there for hours waiting to get out!!

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So, as I stated the tickets were good for one person and a guest. So, we had to wait for all our tickets to get there! Trish was going in with one of her co-workers, Sheba. We waited outside the gate until she got there. The original plan was to all arrive, get in line, send someone out for food and eat while we were waiting for the gates to open. Originally they weren’t going to let anyone in until 8:30 pm, but I guess they decided to open right away which was good, because we got through quickly instead of waiting in a line of 70,000 people! We decided we would just get some food once we got inside, even though the prices would be high! So, once Sheba got there, we got in line. Here’s a shot looking back on the crowd from our spot in line at the first check point:

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There were a CRAZY lot of people there! To get into the park we went through 3 check points. The first one, you just showed that you had a ticket and an ID. Once we got through that, we started to walk to the 2nd point. On the way a woman was announcing that Obama had just gotten Pennsylvania. She was apparently working the rally and had gotten info from the front and was passing it along. We always knew when good news was coming as we entered the main rally area, because we’d hear cheering moving along the way and eventually the news would get to our area and we’d cheer too!

While we were in line for the second check point workers came through and looked through the bags/purses of those who had them. There was a long list of things you could not bring to the rally: large bags, chairs, blankets, signs/banners, strollers, or food/beverages. Basically they wanted to cram us all in there so they couldn’t leave room for chairs or blankets. The second check point was a check of the tickets and ID’s again, but this time they made sure that the ID’s and name on the ticket matched.

Next we moved forward to the final check point, which was the search of all our items and the metal detector. I had to take the buttons off my coat, but luckily there were only 4 of them! Also removed my wallet (which is on a chain) and my keys. You had to show all your electronics and turn them on, then step through the metal detector and reclaim your items. Justin and I consciously left our pocket knives at home that morning!!

We got through the last check point and we were in! When we first got there, we had plenty of room to stretch and chat. Trish decided she needed a better view of the stage:

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We had some AMAZING view of the city from where we were. Chicago lit up at night is truly a beautiful thing and many of the buildings were supporting Election day. Here are some of the better shots:

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I call this the “lipstick” building (cause that’s what it looks like)

Or the Adventures in Babysitting building (’cause it was featured in that movie)

It says “Vote 2008”

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This building says ‘USA’ written by leaving on certain office lights (that’s how most of these are done)

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Office lights left on to make the American Flag

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The top of the Sears Tower lit up with red, white and blue spotlights.

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And the beautiful skyline with a mass of people in front of it.

It truly was amazing to see SO MANY people out in support of one person, wishing and hoping for change. The energy going through the crowd all night was palpable. To be able to share this experience with 70,000 plus people was un-explainable. Not to mention the 600,000 plus people that were behind the barriers outside of the park! All together they were estimating about 700,000 people downtown on election night waiting to hear the election results. Amazing.

We were pretty packed in, and not close to the main stage at all, so I got a few very blurry shots of the stage. Here’s one that shows the Field Museum lit up in the background:

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Since, as you can see, we were so far away from the stage, we watched everything on a huge jumbotron. They had CNN running so we could follow the projection results. Every time Obama would get another state, the entire crowd erupted in shouts of joy! Happily they didn’t show the commercials. They either did sound checks or played some music for that. Here’s a shot of the screen:

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There was lots of good music to groove to during the breaks. We also “re-distributed the wealth” and went in together to get some pizza and beverages. Connie’s was there selling pizzas. It was really good. We all huddled around the box and devoured a large pizza in about 3 minutes. Yum. As the night went on, the crowd got bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Soon we ran out of room and were packed like sardines! Here’s a shot of part of the crowd:

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You can see in the background the flag. There were about 10 or more people walking through the crowd all night with flags. I got some good shots of one when it came by us. Here’s the best:

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They were also bouncing a beach ball over the crowd. It never made it to us, but it got sorta close:

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If you look close you can see a blurry little beach ball…it was covered in people signatures, too!

There were of course random outbursts of cheering, chanting “Obama” or “Yes We Can” throughout the night. Here are some shots of me and my friends in the crowd:

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Tom & Molly

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Tripp & Sheba

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Me & Tripp

As I said, when CNN would project a state for Obama, everyone would cheer. Obama was getting up in numbers and they finally announced Virginia for Obama. Everyone went CRAZY at that point! Tripp and Trish, who are originally from Virginia were shocked and excited. I kept screaming “We love Virginia!”. It was not too long after they called Virginia that the polls were set to close in California. CNN did a countdown every time a poll would close. Obama was so close that if he got California, he got the presidency. So you can imagine the anticipation in the air. It got to 10 seconds to poll closing in California and they showed the clock on the screen. The entire crowd counted down, like it was New Years Eve in New York City. It was 5…4…3…2…1…and then, this happened:

The video is not the best, but the excitement is!! I was jumping up and down, I was screaming! I had never been that excited about a presidential election in my life. I can remember the past 2 elections I voted in feeling depression, anxiety and fear. Not this time. This time it was pure joy and exhilaration. This time I could be proud of our country’s decision and know that I was a part of it, that something special and amazing was coming and that I was a part of that and there to celebrate it with all of these people. There were tears of joy surrounding me and still when I think about that moment, when the crowd exploded with cheers and hope, I get choked up as well. When I see that moment played on TV, or see them talking about President Elect Obama, I get choked up. I haven’t been this hopeful about the state of the country in over 8 years. I know it’s going to be a tough road, I know it won’t happen over night. I know that everything Obama wants to do may not happen, but just the fact that I know he will try, he will fight and he will change the country (and possibly the world) gives me hope and makes me excited about the next 4 years.

Not too long after that explosion of excitement, John McCain delivered his excellent concession speech. I was happy to hear what he had to say and think he delivered an amazing speech. I think if he had been speaking more like that the whole campaign he would have had a much better chance. The crowd at Grant Park clapped for him and seemed very gracious for what he had to say. There were some very rude catty people near me that towards the end were not being very nice and saying things like “okay, time to stop talking now” or poking fun at Sarah Palin. Those people made me VERY angry. This guy has spent the past 2 or more years of his life making a run at the Oval Office – he deserves our respect and as much speaking time as he wants to sum it up and end on as high a not as possible. I’m embarrassed by those in the crowd that were being rude to him, and I apologize to my friends who are McCain supporters. I would have to say over all though that the crowd (except for those rude few) seemed to appreciate and respect what McCain had to say.

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Thank you for your service, Sen. McCain, and I do truly hope you can be a part of what is to come.

After McCain’s speech, we all knew what was next. CNN was turned off and the music was turned up. Celebration music! They finished the sound checks and we all waited with anticipation. Every time a song would end, we hoped it would be the last and Obama was coming soon, and then they’d start another one!! The best they played of course was “Sweet Home Chicago”:

Again, it’s a somewhat crappy video of a great moment where Chicago citizens celebrated the city, Obama, and the country!

Finally the moment came. First there was a prayer led by a bishop. Next came the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Then: “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the President Elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama!”

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Of course, that was also the moment my camera battery decided to go dead. Boo. I did manage to get a few more pics, and about 10 seconds of video of Obama’s speech, but that was it.

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If you look close, you can see a little dot on the blurry stage. That’s Obama!

He gave a great speech and it was phenomenal to be a part of that night and of history. After the speech (and the promise of a puppy to his 2 girls) Biden came out to wave to the crowd as well.

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To sum it up, this was a night I will NEVER forget! I was part of history, I was there! I can tell my kids and grandkids I was at Grant Park the night Barack Obama became our 44th president. As we left the park in a huge mass of people Michigan Ave was shut down and crammed with people! There were people on the medians cheering and singing. People dance and jumping up in down in the street. People celebrating together! Of course the venders were there still selling t-shirts and other paraphernalia. It was crazy and wonderful! We walked and walked in this mass of people, trying to find a bus! With Michigan shut down, we didn’t know where our bus would be. We finally found a CTA worker and they directed us to Clark St where we found the bus. We were there maybe 5 minutes before it came by. They were well prepared for the masses of people, and since everyone was still on Michigan celebrating, we even got a seat on the bus. Which was perfect since I was exhausted! We got off the train to go to the rally about about 6:00 pm. We got on the bus to go home at about 12:30 am. All that time, we were standing. I was REALLY sore, and still am a bit today, 2 days later! It was worth it though, to be a part of that. I wish we could have stayed to celebrate a bit longer, but our poor doggie needed to be let out. We finally got to bed after about 2 am. The next day at work, I had little voice left. I’d had a cold before and an entire night of cheering and screaming didn’t help, so I was squeaky and scratchy the whole next day!

I think that’s all I have to say about my Election Night 2008 experience. I hope you enjoyed my tale, and I hope you have your own tale to tell in the years to come! Peace!

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susie  |  November 6, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    It was so funny watching the first video…all I heard was you yelling and wahooing the whole time. Kidding, it was pretty cool to hear it, great you got to be there 🙂

    Reply
  • 2. Tripp's Mom  |  November 7, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Absolutely amazing post; great pictures; thank you, thank you!! I watched the whole thing on TV and was in tears at the end. I kept looking for you guys every time they showed shots of the crowd; but no luck. I’ve never been prouder of my country either; not to mention the Commonwealth of Virginia!

    Reply

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