New York City has the Morning-After-Election glow. I woke up this morning in a nation with a violent history of slavery, oppression, and civil rights struggles and remembered that overnight, we had elected our first African American President. I know that not everyone in the United States is rejoicing this decision. But today matters because it is the first step toward a time when perhaps it will no longer matter. When a Black, female or even gay president will not be a phenomenon, but a norm. Sure, there are more politics behind Obama's win than just race alone - Bush's reputation, taxes, the economic crisis, McCain's choice of a vice presidential candidate, the war in Iraq, our relationship with Iran and the rest of the Middle East ... and this first step is not affirmation that racism is behind us, but it is a sign that our nation is - not entirely, but broadly - ready to heal.
A dozen or so of our friends gathered in our tiny Hell's Kitchen apartment to watch election coverage. We mixed drinks, ordered takeout and debated politics as we crowded around the television and surfed between the CNN Election Center and the Indecision '08 coverage on Comedy Central. Even a chef friend showed up after his shift with lobster fritters.
When CNN projected Obama to win at approximately 11pm Eastern Standard Time, our apartment erupted in cheers and our neighbors rushed in to tell us that they were heading over to Times Square. As we were throwing on our jackets and silly 2008 and beer mug sunglasses, someone yelled pensively, "Maybe we should double check FOX News to make sure everyone is projecting it."
"Quick," someone else yelled, "What channel is FOX?"
After a quick scroll through the Time Warner guide, we found the channel and again erupted in celebration when we saw that even FOX News was [reluctantly] declaring Obama the winner. Cognizant of the false Al Gore projection in 2000 yet feeling fairly certain that the victory was sealed, we charged through Hell's Kitchen and ran, leaping and screaming, in the streets of West Midtown.
A blind man could have followed the roar from Times Square that was echoing through the canyons of Manhattan. We raced down the blocks, dodging Obama supporters with campaign signs, wearing crazy hats, even some in full body paint, and packed ourselves into the masses of thousands reminiscent of New Year's Eve. Complete strangers met in an embrace and then remained nameless as they turned to scream Obama's name at passersby. Rather than the short, agitated beeps of impatient taxis that I've learned to ignore, I rejoiced in the long, victorious honks of the car horns. I hollered, I did little jigs on street corners, I took silly pictures. If human electricity were conductible, I think our bodies could have lit Times Square alone.
When the jumbotron monitors suddenly experienced technical difficulties as Obama commenced his speech, Natasha and I took off through the crowd to race the few blocks back to our apartment. It was in that moment when I realized that Times Square and Midtown Manhattan were like our very own backyard and for the hundredth time, Natasha and I linked arms and squealed about living in the best city in the world.
But this time, as we ran zigzagging along West 45th Street, stumbling on uneven pavement and giggling uncontrollably, we both knew that we were subconsciously capturing this moment and realizing that this is the story we will tell when our grandchildren ask where we were when Barack Obama was elected President.
... And what a very special time for me,
'Cause I remember what a night ...
A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: New York City Marathon
Phone Photo Ops - Marathon Images