“We have to go down there you know,” my friend Joe said as we sat on the phone watching the election returns come in on television on Tuesday evening. I had rushed home to drop off my back pack because there was a slight chance I was going to receive an hard to come by extra ticket to the private part of the Barack Obama rally.
“We’ll regret it if we don’t go,” Joe continued.
He was right and we both knew it. So we jumped on our bikes with my camera strapped around my neck and road into the mayhem. And it was mayhem. Even at 10pm, people were still streaming into Grant Park along Michigan Avenue virtually shutting down vehicular traffic downtown.
Like a huge school of fish we flowed through the one entrance that police were letting people enter near Congress. Once in the park, if you had an official ticket, you were directed south, to the promised land and the chance to actually see Obama with your own eyes. If you had no ticket, you were herded to the north end of the park with a hundred thousand of your closest friends.
But the city of Chicago was very well prepared for the waves of people. Large jumbotron screens were set up all over the park so the less fortunate non ticket holders could be a part of the historic night. We chose a screen with the beautiful backdrop of the the Michigan Avenue skyline behind it just as John McCain was getting ready to concede the election.
And although the crowd was crushingly huge, there was a friendly calm vibe in the park. Very chill. No pushing, no fighting. Everyone was feeling inspired.
Finally a little after 11pm, President-Elect Barack Obama addressed the Grand Park Crowd, the country, and the world with an acceptance speech that moved everyone standing in the beautiful Chicago night. We all stood attentively listening, sometimes cheering, looking around and realizing we were part of something truly historic.
More photographs of that evening are available here in the Billy Sheahan Photography Photo Series under Obama 2008.