Patrons at the Breezeway Bar and Grille on Blue Hill Ave. react to the news of Barack Obama's election on Tuesday night. Photo by Pete Stidman
His campaign went on for 21 months, the American people sat through over a year of primary and presidential campaigning, and opinion polls predicted a landslide. Yet no one dared believe it was true until the moment Florida flickered blue on TV screens everywhere, and when it became a fact it was overwhelming.
"This is just the best day ever, ever, ever," said Kevin Jones, a high school teacher who watched the results roll in at the Breezeway Bar and Grill on Blue Hill Avenue. "I'm just excited about what's to come. I think that Obama is about to take us to a whole new level. A level where we understand each other."
"I'm restless. I'm nervous. I'm terrified," said Taylor Davis as the blue and red states flickered westward across election maps on her laptop at the Tavolo restaurant in Peabody Square.
At right: Tavolo patrons celebrtate as Obama is declared the winner just after 11 p.m. on Tuesday. Photo by Bill Forry
"This is the next generation of civic activists," said East Boston Democrat Gloribell Mota just before cheers went up around her at the Service Employees and Industrial Union 1199 headquarters on Columbia Point. Barack Obama had just taken Ohio.
Thousands of young voters turned out to vote - many for the first time - all over the neighborhood, the city and the country.
When Obama's Electoral College totals finally ratcheted above 270, the magic number needed to clinch the election, cheers went up in the neighborhood, from election parties, from apartment windows, from passing cars, from friends gathered on sidewalks. Some hollered, some honked, some leaped into the air, others hugged each other or wiped tears from their cheeks and still others sat silently and proudly smiled.
Not everyone voted for the president elect, but most who voted Republican kept it close to the vest on Tuesday.
Although official numbers broken down by precinct were not released by press time, turnout in Dorchester was undoubtedly high based on informal surveys, and perhaps record-breaking in some areas.
At Geneva Apartments, home of ward 14, precinct 4, poll worker Michele McNickles said they normally hope for 100 votes by noon, even in a presidential race. But by 10:30 a.m. 380 votes had been cast.
"This is phenomenal," said McNickles, who started working at the polls over 30 years ago. "A lot of youngsters are coming out. I've seen a lot of kids I watched growing up, elderly too."
The voting station, like many, many others in the neighborhood had a line going out the door first thing in the morning, with up to an hour wait, but spirits were high.
"They were celebrating and clapping every time somebody voted like it was a game," said James Lopez, who maintains the building. "I've never seen it like this before."
Many of those lines were full of first time voters who said they were inspired by Obama's candidacy to register. Many were young men and women, 18, 19, and 20 years of age. But others voted for the first time at 27, 39, or 58.
"It's history in the making," explained 29 year-old Aice Jackman, walking out after voting for the first time at Codman Square Library.
Ed Geary, a campaign worker, said two school buses rolled by the same library after school let out and instead of the kids running their usual shenanigans, they were yelling "Obama! Obama! Obama!"
Dominque Pina's family helped her walk into the Annapolis Apartments in Ward 13 to vote for the Illinois Senator. Poll-workers cheered as she cast her first vote at 94 years of age.
Suffering from arthritis, Pina (shown at right) has sat out other elections in the 15 years since she became a U.S. citizen, and many more going back to when she first emigrated here from Cape Verde in 1967, but this year was different, she said.
"She feels like he will help with the problems in the world," translated her granddaughter Carlita Rezende, one of 16 grandchildren. Pina speaks only Cape Verdean Kriolu. "She used to tell me that her heart, her faith is to god, but she really wanted to vote this year. She watches TV and we told her some facts about Obama and with that she really wanted to vote."
Aside from the long lines and a few frustrated unregistered or lost first-time voters, the only real issue for the day occurred when Dorchester House ran out of ballots in Vietnamese due to a surge in Vietnamese-American voters there.
"They had twice as many Vietnamese voters than they expected," said Rahsaan Hall of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights. "My understanding is that the city dispatched someone to take care of that rather quickly. By and large the city did a good job of getting the ballots out and running things."
Among those seen working the polls on Tuesday were City Councillor Michael Flaherty - who advised the Reporter to "hold your powder" when he was asked if he was hiding any fliers that said the word "Mayor" on them. Councillor Sam Yoon admitted that it was "interesting" that the influx of new voters might be changing the city's political landscape. State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who was seen chatting with voters in front of the Latin Academy and other points in Roxbury and Grove Hall but declined any press interviews - although some told the Reporter she handed out a few of her voting stickers out along the way. Jean Claude-Sanon, another hopeful in next year's citywide council contest, was spotted making the rounds at various polling stations as well.
Boston's firefighters took shifts and covered nearly every polling station the Reporter visited, handing out letters that said they get just as upset when one of their members abuses the system - as have a handful that have been in the daily press lately - but also emphasizing the fact that they're entering their third year without a contract from the city of Boston.