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The Mechanics
« Reporting Live from the Grant Park Rally! A Preview For Those On Their Way To DC »

Election 2008 Wed Nov 05 2008

Voices from the Obama Rally

A crowd of nearly 240,000 people gathered around Grant Park and the outskirts of the Loop to watch Senator Barack Obama's run to the White House finally come to the finish line. Gapers Block spent the day tracking the noises and voices of the people who waited in line and risked being packed like sardines to be a part of Obama's historic celebration.

1:15 p.m.: With roads already blocked off and security forces blocking some pedestrian accesses, vendors are already setting up shop, selling buttons and tee-shirts with the words "hope" and "change" found on nearly every item.

4:16 p.m.: The line for lucky ticket holders at the event stretches in three rows from Columbus Drive to Harrison. An automated message reminds everyone that, "As you go through security, please leave your coats on. Remove all metal from your pockets. Turn your cell phones and electronics on, and open your purses. Thank you for coming."

5:31 p.m.: After letting the first group of ticket holders in a little after 4 p.m., Mike Mantel is standing in the front of a group now blocked off at South Columbus Drive and East Balbo Drive. Mantel, 58 and a Hanover Park resident, has waited in line since 1:30 after receiving his ticket Monday night. He says he's supporting Obama because he represents "change, something different." "Hopefully, [he'll change] the partisan politics that's been going on over the last 10 years. Maybe actually something will get done."

5:35 p.m.: The security guard tells the crowd that he will be removing the barricades so ticket holders can go through the third and final security checkpoint, which he likens to airport security. "When everyone comes through the street, we all have to work together [so] there is not a huge rush. We have a lot of street we need to conquer here and we have plenty of time to do that. You are at checkpoint two. We will be taking you to checkpoint three. We're going to do that in about 10 minutes. That's good. Okay? Everyone is working really hard to get you guys in before 8:30, so we need you all to work with us. We don't want any running. We don't any pushing. We want everyone to be sweet to each other because that's why we're here."

5:44 p.m.: When the guards remove the barriers, a man screams in excitement, "Checkpoint three, here we go!"

6:50 p.m.: South Holland couple Courtney Parrott, 58, and his wife Marion got downtown around 4:30 p.m. and are anxiously awaiting news results from the CNN jumbo tv to their left. Packed deep in the crowd, Parrott holds up a copy of a Vibe magazine with the cover proclaiming, "It's Obama Time." "I wish I could be a little closer [to the stage], but I'm very happy," he says. Proudly wearing an Obama hat, tee-shirt and button, Parrott says if Obama wins, he's going to open a 2001 bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne tonight.

Courtney Parrott and his wife Marion.jpg

7:17 p.m.: Schaumburg resident Radha Jaya Raghavan, 53, stands next to her son, Rohit, 30, and his wife Lucy, 26, of Chicago. They arrived to Grant Park around 5:30 p.m. Radha Raghavan spent the day volunteering at Obama's headquarters and says there was an "overflow" of people who were calling Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. "I'm big on healthcare," she says. "I'm paying out of my pocket, so it's going up in November again for me. And I want to see that I'm getting the benefit of Obama's healthcare [plan]."

7:45 p.m.: Outside the packed crowd gathering around the stage, participants are sitting on the grass in front of the CNN jumbo tv, cheering loudly when the network projects a win for Obama and booing every projected McCain state. Naperville resident Sterling Reynolds, 15, came to the rally tonight around 5 with his dad after his mom received an emailed ticket. While he's not old enough to vote yet, he's still highly engaged in this election. "I'm here when history is being made, so that's all I can ask," he says. "I feel it's very important. I'm in American Government right now and I'm recording a lot of this right now on my camera to take to class. It's a once in a lifetime chance. And if you can't take that chance, it's not good."

8:53 p.m.: Chicago resident David Miele, 31, is sitting on the grass with four of his friends after arriving at Grant Park around 6:30 p.m. "It's pretty amazing," he says. "I would have loved to had a chance to go to another Obama rally during the long campaign season. But I feel really fortunate to be [at] the last one of the season, especially given the circumstances." Explaining his support for Obama, Miele says, "He has an amazingly quick and comprehensive intelligence. I trust his judgment because of it. I feel that he shares a lot of the same values I have, which are a lot of democratic and liberal leading values. The fact that he doesn't have a lot of traditional hallmarks of experience never really bothered me."

Grant Park crowd.jpg

10:57: As Obama approaches the stadium to give his victory speech, a woman standing in the background sighs. On the verge of tears, she proclaims, "He did it!"

11:33 p.m.: Walking toward Michigan Avenue after attending the rally, 51-year-old Anna Preacely and 58-year-old Adelle Washington, both of Chicago, excitedly talk about the future Obama brings. As two African-American women, Preacely and Washington are especially proud tonight -- not only because Obama is African-American, but because he is the best candidate for the job. "This goes back to King's speech," Washington says. "He says one day we will be judged by the content of our character, and not our color. That's Barack Obama. King was the dreamer, and Barack Obama is the dream."

11:45 p.m.: As midnight approaches, pedestrians dance and sing on the normally car-congested Michigan Avenue. It's safe to say that every person here, at least once, proudly uttered the word "Obama" tonight.

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