Hundreds of Barack Obama supporters packed a banquet room at the Sacramento Radisson Hotel Tuesday night in Sacramento for an election watch party.
Crowds gathered around three large projection screens surrounded by red, white and blue balloons showing MSNBC’s election night coverage.
Merchandise tables near the center stage sold everything from Obama T-shirts to Obama Frisbees and Obama golf balls.
At 5 p.m. the crowd started chanting, “Yes we can” as news anchors announced Obama was projected to win Pennsylvania.
“I can’t believe it, this [election] has been so much work,” said Sacramento for Obama co-chair of communications Tessa Janian. “It’s just too much.”
“I think this is a new day in America,” said the director of Heritage Park charter school Sonja Cameron. “[This election] is historic because Barack has pulled together people that don’t even talk about race.”
At 5:50 p.m. when Obama was projected to win Ohio, one of the founding members of Sacramento for Obama grabbed the microphone and said, “That ‘L’ word is coming to mind, and it’s not loser, it’s landslide.”
Hearing this, the crowd screamed and threw their hands in the air.
“Oh man, I feel so good,” said Issa, a contractor originally from Cameroon. “I would never dream to see someone coming from this background become the U.S. president in the 21st century.”
Issa, like many others at the event, had been phone banking through the previous night and into the day.
“For me, this means so much,” said Mel, a retired computer trainer who said he was involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “You almost don’t believe it. The whole world is watching.”
At 7:30 nearly every eye is fixed on one of the screens, as results from counties in Virginia and Florida are reviewed.
“There’s so much emotion,” said Kristopher Makrakis, an electrician from Sacramento. “This is one of the most significant elections since Lincoln or Kennedy. It was just too historic to not get involved in.”
“There’s nothing to compare [this election] to,” said Cheryl, a program manager for the Department of Social Services. “After today, the whole world will change.”
In the last 20 minutes before 8 p.m., the speakers played John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” and men in business suits danced and clapped to “Shake your Groove Thing.”
Then it happened.
At 8 p.m. on Nov. 4, the polls closed on the West Coast and MSNBC announced the projected winner of the 2008 Presidential Election to be Barack Obama.
The crowd let out a deafening cheer. Strangers grabbed each other, hugged and jumped up and down. A few could only cry. The television showed crowds hearing the news in cities all around the country. One woman looked to the man standing next to her and shouted, “Oh my God, we did it!”
The screaming from the crowd didn’t even begin to die down for a full three minutes.
When Barack Obama came on the big screen to make his acceptance speech, those in the hall or on the patio ran at full speed into the banquet room. As the next president spoke, people from all different races, religions and backgrounds stood side-by-side to watch, and this time they chanted, “Yes we did, yes we did.”
JON GJERDE can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.