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You had to watch - if not, you had to hear

By unknown | Nov 06, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

You had to watch - and if you couldn't watch, you had to hear.

In this election for the ages, Albert Watson, 56, was the doorman stuck with the night shift on Tuesday evening at an apartment building on East 96th Street in Manhattan, New York - no television, no radio, no smartphone or smart anything, a man starved of information on this night of all nights.

He had to know.

Joanna Gunderson, 76, from the 12th floor, recognised this, and she padded down and told him about Indiana. His friend from church, Faith Murray, who was home glued to the television in the Bronx, called him frequently with feeds. Here she was with news of 16 states deposited in the Obama column, his man on the way.

As the desired verdict was reached, Watson knew he was going to "be drinking all kinds of champagne tomorrow". He savoured the moment. He said: "Today is the day to be glad and rejoice."

At last, when the stampede of polls and blogged opinions and phone-bank calls no longer mattered and it was a done deal, supporters of Barack Obama arrayed everywhere from a Las Vegas casino to an Iowa supermarket to a call centre in Gurgaon, India, exulted with jubilation and abundant relief.

For John McCain's backers, it was no longer possible to bank on comebacks and upsets. Spin finally stood still. The underdog would remain just that.

In an energised election heavily draped in symbolism, response was particularly emotive at settings already permanently encased in history's glow. At the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the home church of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, a "Watch Night" was accompanied by a candlelight vigil across the street at the crypt where King is buried.

"It's just like a new world," said Leroy Johnson, 80, a former state senator who was a year behind King at Moorehouse College. "It's a new life."

The quadrennial institution of election-watching reached something of a frenzied pinnacle.

Throngs of parties and events bubbled throughout the country, almost colliding into one another. Updates turned up everywhere.

At the Izod Centre at the New Jersey Meadowlands, where the New Jersey Nets were hosting the Phoenix Suns, the most raucous applause came not from dunks but from half-hourly election dispatches beamed on the Jumbotron.

When Pennsylvania fell to Obama, the crowd erupted, clapping their thunder sticks together. During timeouts, even the players looked. - Sapa


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