November 4th 2008.
The day started normally enough ... I woke up with only a slight pang of nervousness in the pit of my stomach. Made my way to the lounge, still in a slightly sleepy daze. Put the kettle on. Slipped a bag of Earl Grey (which I get specially brought by friends visiting from the UK) in the teapot. Turned on the computer to check the emails I had received overnight and glanced at my facebook newsfeed.
But how special the day was became quickly apparent. Most of my friends facebook status reflected their anticipation of the events that were to unfold throughout the evening - the hugely important choice that America had to make in the wake of it's 56th Presidential Election. I looked out of my window only to see a large queue of people forming at the corner of 86th and Broadway, the nearest voting station from my apartment. I dutifully updated my facebook status, expressing my own anxiousness and excitement.
At work, all conversations inevitably turned to the election - how many hours had been spent queuing to vote and what election parties would be attended that night. I spoke of my frustration at not being allowed to vote in such an historical election. I have always felt very strongly about civic duties - about the right and the need to vote. In fact, the most exciting thing for me when I turned 18 years old was finally being old enough to vote - sad but true and my parents can attest to that!
I unfortunately had to attend a business dinner that evening (preventing me from attending some of the election parties I had been invited to) as I have joined the Advertisers Advisory board of a major US Online Marketing vendor. Talking "shop" was far from my mind as by the time evening came, my state of "slight nervousness" had descended into mild hysteria. I went home as soon as I could and sat down to watch the coverage on CNN.
I found the whole process incredibly confusing - not understanding why everyone was more concerned about the number of Electoral seats being won, rather than the popular vote ... Numerous text messages were exchanged with American friends who kindly explained and also shed light on what "gubernatorial" means. I should clearly have done my homework ahead of time!
When Ohio was predicted to have been won by Obama, CNN proclaimed the election to be won without a doubt. I again found myself confused and unable to celebrate as it seemed a little premature to me ... until I heard the noise coming from outside my windows. I have not seen such an overwhelming display of public euphoria in a long time (the last time was probably when France won the World Cup in 1998!) - car horns were going wild, people were screaming, crying and dancing in the streets. I did my own little happy dance while exchanging calls and texts with my friends to share in the joy and relief. I became rather emotional and shed some tears when watching Obama's victory speech ... four consecutive times in a row thanks to the wonders of cable live replay! I don't think I have ever felt so inspired and moved by a politician in my life.
I wish I could say that the public exhilaration lasted for many days after the victory ... It did the next morning at least when I sat next to two ladies in the subway who loudly expressed their joy and encouraged the rest of the carriage to cheer with them - which we gladly did. But with America's economy in the most precarious position it has been in decades, I'm afraid that I went back to work worrying about redundancies and the incredibly challenging year ahead.
However there is genuine hope in the new government and trust that they will make the right decisions even if the road to recovery and change will be long and hard. At least, with Barack Obama at it's helm - yes, we can!