Thursday, November 6, 2008

A day I'll never forget: Part 2

I will be periodically sharing random moments & memories from what was surely one of the most incredible days in American history, not to mention all of our lifetimes. As I post various snapshots from the day, I urge you to share your favorite moments as well in the comments.

Exactly 40 years ago, U Street was the epicenter of the worst of the Washington D.C. riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Shortly after Obama was declared the winner, the very first live scene local news networks cut to was of U Street. Only this time, it was filled with joyous revelers wildly celebrating.

I was watching the election at a party in Cleveland Park. Most of the people in attendance were in their 40's, 50's and 60's, with some families sprinkled in. Of the few people there who were my age, it was immediately understood that we would be going to U Street, though none of us had to say it.

Five of us crammed into the backseat of my friend's parents' car (one of the thousands of reasons I love Marcy and Peter Seitel). A few minutes later, we approached the street scene, directly passing by police cars but none of them seemed to care about our seating arrangement. Tight.

The sights and sounds of pure joy and pent-up frustration over the last eight years being released was overwhelming. As we walked towards the noise, we passed a bar that was showing Obama wrapping up his victory speech. We entered another bar & ordered a round of Jameson's. They were out of it so we had to settle for shots of Jim Beam, only they were double shots (not what we asked for). I grabbed a maraschino cherry off the bar to cut the taste, which worked quite well actually.

After some more, um, "spirits," we joined the rain soaked celebration on the street. 14th and U resembled a European nation after winning the World Cup, right down to the chants of "Olé! Olé Olé Olé!" Ol-é, Ol-é!" Only this outpouring was inherently American. Strangers hugging and hi-fiving. Everybody dancing to sounds and rhythms of varying nations. One truck was parked in the middle of the street blasting go-go. People from all walks of life, all ages, all races and sexual orientations, all co-existing.

There was nothing angry about it. Nobody was destructive. Police and party-goers were cooperative. Right there, at the intersection of 14th and U, even if only for one night, things had come full circle.

After a few hours of partying, a mass congregation of drummers and dancing folks huddled in the middle of the street. A chorus began to form: "To the White House! To the White House!" As the group we were now a part of started moving, I looked back to see more and more people following along stretching back as far as I could see. Looks like I was heading to the White House.

We marched directly down 16th Street (like, in the southbound lane), greeted by the honking horns and hi-fives from out of cars heading northbound. As we approached our destination, some of the following chants were:
-Yes We Can!
-Yes we did!!!
-Sí se puede!!!
-Move Bush! Get out the way! Get out the way, Bush, get out the way!
-Whose house? Obama's house!!! (6.54's and mine's clear favorite)
-Pack your shit! Pack your shit!
-Na na na na! Na na na na! Hey, hey, Hey! GOODBYE!!!

Me and my friend Jesse tried to start a round of "We Are The Champions," but it didn't really catch on.

Back at home at nearly 4 am, I still couldn't really wrap my mind around what had just happened. All I could think was, "Man, what a night!"


  1. Wow, thats amazing. It was tough to find local news covering DC that late, but thats incredible you were there for it.

    Please tell me you had a camera with you

  2. Awesome. The juxtaposition between this celebration and the riots is amazing when you think about it.


  4. unfortunately i didn't have a camera, but i've seen a few different albums on facebook and other places & i'll try to steal a few of their pics. the post also had a decent photo gallery on their Wed. story about the celebrations. Prince of Petworth also had a small video from U street, not that great though

  5. It was like an occupying army had left the city.