By Jim Stanford on November 5, 2008
The dream has come true. America has pulled off a peaceful revolution.
We came into the night knowing it could happen, and were hoping it would happen. But it’s like jumping into an alpine lake: Nothing you do on shore or in the air prepares you for the feeling of landing in cold water.
The states kept falling: Pennsylvania. Ohio. Virginia! But after the shock of 2000 and the horror of 2004, I could not allow myself to scream until I was blindsided by Wolf Blitzer, “CNN can now project that Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the president-elect of the United States.”
I received an e-mail later in the night from an Irish friend, now teaching at Harvard, who had been skeptical this movement would succeed. “To see the streets full of people at 3 a.m., singing and cheering, cars honking and flags waving,” he wrote, “it was really like the fall of the wall.”
If I had not been in the sanctity of my own living room, with a group of friends, satisfied from having helped local candidates in the waning hours, the only place I would have rather been was in New Orleans, the “chocolate” city where the fortunes of the Bush administration irrevocably turned. My few black friends live in New Orleans, and their music has brought me much joy.
I would have been on Oak Street, at the Maple Leaf Bar, where the Rebirth Brass Band plays every Tuesday night. Rebirth is the rare show that always draws a mixed crowd, as family and friends from the musicians’ neighborhoods boogie with the white folk.
I asked Phil Frazier, tuba player and band leader, what New Orleans was like on Election Night.
“Pandemonium,” he said. “It was like Mardi Gras.”
Inside the Maple Leaf, blasts of euphoria poured from the horns. “It was the one time where everyone felt that sense of unity,” he said. “There was no black or white; we were all Americans. It was beautiful.”
Beautiful like this photograph from Ron Antonelli of the N.Y. Daily News. The gentleman in tears was in the front row for Obama’s speech in Chicago, and his image has appeared in several publications, no doubt a contender for a Pulitzer.
I cried looking at this photo today, and I have cried many times as the scope of Obama’s victory has set in. May this feeling stay with me the rest of my life.