Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Eff Florida"

From my bed, I watched people laughing, cheering, waving and crying as they flooded the streets of U, Pennsylvania, 42nd, Grant Park's Randolph and thousands more last night. I had two thoughts: How I longed to be with them, to be out there, (hell, to be in a newsroom), and how proud I was. Proud that people were celebrating life together again.

I'm sure my reflections will be no different than the reflections in the Post and the Times and other blogs, but I press on because I can't shake this feeling of intense uplift, and how I was involved in the biggest election in American history and certainly the biggest political change in my short lifetime. That I'll be able to tell my children, "I was there, I saw this happen, I was a part of it," like my parents have done with me about the moon, Dallas, Birmingham and Watergate. It's absolutely moving and I'm proud to feel this way.

I was an intern for ABC News June-August 2007 and January-May 2008. I had worked on the first presidential debate with George Stephanopoulos in New York on August 19, 2007, and through the whole mess of having YouTube video questions. I started my second internship in their Political Unit/Digital Media on Jan. 2, 2008, a day before the Iowa caucus. I wrote why we vote on Tuesday for them. I was in their newsrooms until 2 a.m. on Super Tuesday, only to get up at 5 a.m. the next day to go back. I covered Obama's rally at Maryland for them. I helped get out the Radars when Biden, Richardson, Paul and several others dropped out. Jack Tapper hailed me as "deputy managing editor" for his blog, Political Punch when I would find him pop culture political tidbits. For months, I worked on the candidates' timelines, games and their trivia, helped out on The Note, and so much more.

I couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness and longing that I couldn't be with the team last night, but I can certainly imagine how chaotic it was and how damn lucky their fall 2008 interns are.

My election day started out like many others. I rose early to beat the lines at my polling station in P.G. County, only to get there at exactly 7:00 a.m. and ended up waiting for 48 minutes. Here's me halfway to the door. About 150+ people ahead of me, and that's not counting the 100+ behind me.

I still managed to get to work on time and by that point I had already gotten texts and tweets from friends in New York saying that they were heading into hour three of standing in line.

I knew the world would be watching us. In fact, CNN had a special broadcast this morning from Madrid where they reported that Spain's national radio station canceled two futbol broadcasts to cover our election. One man who was interviewed said of the results, "This is good for Europe. This is good for all of us." But nothing prepared me to see this man taking video and photos of us standing in line at my small elementary school polling place and saying, "People in China want see you!"

Got to work and later went out on a shoot with Kasey. Kasey had already gotten her free coffee at Starbucks that morning so we went in search of free Krispy Kreme star-spangled donuts. We found a shop near the polling place we had been to, but were very angry to learn that the Krispy Kreme had just closed. Because they ran out of donuts. Completely. At 3:30 p.m., how do you run out of donuts, donut shop? Needless to say, we went back to Discovery disappointed.

By 5 p.m., everyone was so anxious that we wrapped things up and headed home. Around 8 p.m., I headed over to UMD to support and participate in the Election Watch '08 Tad had pulled together for the student union.

It was packed. At least 500 students showed up, not one wearing a McCain shirt. The food was enchiladas and hot dogs with the works in honor of Phoenix and Chicago.

In their free plastic election hats...

I sat with these students and watched - at first trying to figure out what the hell CNN was doing with those ridiculous holograms - then as they screamed and cheered as Vermont was called for Obama, then most of the Northeast, then Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia. Finally, as CNN lead the countdown to when the polls closed on the West coast, I was starring at the screen with the rest of them, waiting, and suddenly like Times Square on New Years Eve it was there: CNN BREAKING NEWS: BARACK OBAMA IS ELECTED PRESIDENT.

The whole room erupted, and I just stared. It took me at least eight seconds to comprehend what I was reading. I couldn't compute the words at first. Not because I didn't believe them, but because I was shocked Wolf didn't provide extra commentary or wait a few minutes for the poll results to come in. It was just... BAM. We have a new president.

As Tad hugged me and did a couple of fist pumps, I began jumping up and down too.
"I can't believe it," I said. "Look how many states are still grey and yellow. They just announced it, just like that? They haven't even called Florida!"
"Pssh, Eff Florida," Tad replied, and he got on the phone to call his parents.

It was an off-the-cuff statement, but it was truth. After being beaten in 2000 over a recount in one state, a state that was slated as an electoral pot of gold, Florida had lost its crown and had become trivial and unimportant to the Democrats this year. What a change. What an election. What a journey.


Jess said...

Effron this was a great post! I think you pretty much captured exactly what everyone (except maybe a few McCain supporters) were feeling on Tuesday night!

Larry said...

Thanks for sharing your election moment Lauren. I really enjoyed it. My wife and I were in our living room when the race was called. We were momentarily speechless, staring at the screen, then at each other. Leslie had resisted believing my mathematical analysis, 20 minutes before, that Obama's win was inevitable. She needed to hear it as a fact, not a projection. I have to admit, I was also holding back my jubilation until I heard it from the tube.
I only wish my boys were old enough to comprehend all this. I told Elijah (who is 4) that this the first African American president -- the very first ever for this country. Then I reminded him that he's African American, as well as his mother and little brother, grandfather, grandmother and aunt. That seemed to make an impression.
One thing Obama's presidency has already done for my family is to obliterate any reason for my sons to doubt themselves because of their heritage. That's history. And just so they never forget, I'll be framing the cover of the next issue of TIME and hanging it prominently in our living room.