Capital Welcomes Obama
By Joel Achenbach
The spontaneous Obama party on the streets of Washington roared past midnight, past 1 a.m., past 2 a.m., with all the centripetal forces driving the revelers to Lafayette Park across from the White House.
It was an explosion of joy. Strangers hugged. People danced in clusters. The air became saturated with the sound of honking car horns from all points of the compass. Police stayed back, barely perceptible on the periphery. The White House itself was darkened, with hardly a sign of life. But people called toward the president's house anyway and chanted. One group started a song:
Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey hey hey
At about 2:15 a.m., there were maybe 1,000 people, possibly more, still going strong.
They'd started, many of them, at 14th and U Streets, or in Adams Morgan, or Dupont Circle. Word got around that the White House was the place to be. You didn't need to be told: You could see people streaming in that direction on all the major arteries of town.
How long would this last? If there was even a flicker of fatigue in the crowd as the hour grew late, no worries: Reinforcements were on the way. You could hear them far up on the 16th Street, heading south. There were hundreds of them. Call it an even 500. They were Howard University students.
The students stayed in a pack, shouting with glee. One group split off at the corner of 16th and L streets and began an impromptu drumming session on some empty newspaper boxes, the metal containers resonating nicely in the hours before they'd be filled with papers headlined, "Obama Makes History."
In front of the White House, the celebrants came up with a new chant to direct toward the mansion: "Pack! Your! S--t!"
Roland Washington and Carole Stovall, a political consultant and a psychologist, respectively, came to the White House thinking they could have a quiet, contemplative moment to think about their departed fathers, who had always believed, they said, in the promise of equality in America. They wanted to ponder how their fathers would feel had they lived to see the election of an African American president. Then they found themselves in the middle of a party.
They were loving it.
"This was my father's dream," Stovall said.
"It's a spiritual moment. It's like One Love. You couldn't have designed a more diverse crowd. People wanting to touch strangers," Washington said.
Tyrone Celey, a Metro employee, said, "It's like the Million Man March. It's magical."
Finally, at about 3:20 a.m., the honking on the streets began to fade. The crowd dwindled. This was, after all, a Wednesday morning, a work day, a school day.
But a day unlike any that America has ever seen.
Web Politics Editor
November 5, 2008; 11:12 AM ET
Categories: B_Blog , Joel's Two Cents , Washington Life
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