Thursday, 28 August 2008 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.
I asked for a week's vacation the day it was announced that Denver would host the 2008 DNC gathering. At the time I told my Manager that I needed to be there to see Barack accept his nomination. She chided me gently, suggesting I should not get my hopes up. Thankfully, my hopes of Obama getting the nomination came true.
For the last several days I had been mulling over the logistics of the day, namely how would I get there? With mass transit calamity predicted for the downtown area, I wasn't too keen on driving. Yet I didn't want to leave to catch the return bus any second earlier than was necessary.
So I awoke the day of Thursday 28 August deciding to let my gut rule the day. Remember that, ok?
While everyone suggested getting there early, I slept in. Decided to spruce up the house. Blog. Twitter. Vege. As far as how to get downtown, decided I would bus it after all and if I wanted to stay past the last bus back home, well, that's what cabs are for.
Made it to the local PNR with time to spare and was amazed at the many empty parking spaces. Nice!
The bus was pretty much deserted too. Was downtown in less than 1/2 hour and as I started walking towards Mile Hile Stadium, my inner voice told me to stop. So I did. Grabbed at seat at the outdoor Starbucks and met up with Meryl. One thing led to another and before you knew it, Meryl, Elsie and their friend whose name I never got were all walking down Blake Street.
As we walked, I discovered that Meryl is a Mayor from New Jersey and Elsie is her town Councilwoman. We made a pitstop at the CNN Grill where Meryl dashed in to grab some food & drink. Minutes later she returned with some pretty sweet CNN schwag for all of us and we continued on to Invesco.
This was my first time going to Invesco and as such, I was not the best tour guide, which I felt horribly about and apologized for several times. I had wanted to escort my new friends to MHS in the quickest possible way but after awhile it was evident that not only did I not know what was going on as far as directions, no one else seemed to know what was going on as well.
Lines were beyond long and confusing and thanks to texts from my friends Anthony and Heather I knew I'd have a very long wait. My New Jersey friends were impatient with the lack of progress we were making and when they stopped to call friends I lost them in the crowd.
My gut told me to keep walking so that's what I did. Found myself in a line that snaked along the MHS parking lot and wound up on Federal in front of a Burger King. Thinking a nice frosty Coke sounded delish, I walked inside to wait in another line, this one air conditioned. Wound up geting interviewed by a CSPAN reporter who was amazed at the monstrous lines surrounding the event.
Back outside to join the line, which had grown considerably since I left it As I took my place, started talking to the two guys in back of me. To be honest, I had walked a little quicker to get in line, sensing they would be good linemates. And that turned out to be one of my best decisions of the day. Their names were Steve and Nate..a doctor and an architect by trade. But I'm convinced they were both angels moonlighting as a doctor and architect.
After chatting for a good 20 minutes in a line that barely moved, Steve heard a rumor that an additional parking lot entrance had opened. He dashed off to see if it was true while Nate and I continued to chat about anything and everything. Another 15 minutes passed and Steve called to tell Nate to come meet him...quickly! Nate looked at me and said ' Hey, we're a team...let's go'. So off we went.
Ok, you know the dizzinesss I've had problems with lately? The route Nate and I had to take involved going down a hill. You do the math. Me+Fear of Heights+Dizziness = Holy Crap Scaredycatness. So I fessed up and gave Nate the 'hey, I need help going down hills' and he was kind and gracious and helped me down without ever laughing or making me feel like the klutz I was feeling like inside. We met up with Steve then headed down another hill. Again, 100% help all the way. See?? Angels in disguise!
We pretty much breezed thru all three security stations in less than half an hour at that point. I promised the guys drinks and told them I would blog about how angelic they were. Heather called to check up on my progress right after we cleared the first security checkpoint and I babbled to her about Nate and Steve and how she needed to blog about them in Blogher as being two awesome dudes that ladies in Denver and nationwide would want to know...since Steve and Nate had volunteered that they were single.
Yeah, by that time I was bordering on manic relief and wild enthusiasm for not only getting inside the stadium, but my fortune in meeting Nate and Steve and having them adopt me into their pack.
As promised...ALS! readers, I give you Steve on the left and Nate on the right.
Without their help, I would have still been in line at 8pm.
Once inside Invesco, it was almost too much to bear. The excitement was fantastic. Flags everywhere. People everywhere as well. And everyone was nice...friendly...happy. Joyous even!
I found my section, battled my fear of heights and wound up in section 521, row 13, seat 8. Check out the awesome view from my seat!
Not 3 minutes later, Al Gore took the stage. And for me, that is when I realized that this was a reality. I'd been looking forward to seeing Gore since it was announced he'd be attending.
The night got better with each speaker. When Dick Durbin reminded everyone how he had announced Barack at the 2004 Boston DNC Keynote, I teared up, remembering that night like it was yesterday. I had the Team Stork campaign staffers over for a DNC watch party and while everyone else partied and drank, my buddy Chris and I watched it quietly. And I knew from that moment on that Obama is who I wanted to see accept the nomination next time around. Like so many dreams I've had over the last 6 years, that one came true Thursday night.
Thursday was the first time I'd ever seen Barack in person.If you want the official view or the pundit take on the night, that's what CNN is for. Or the networks. From my perspective? It was magical. Amazing. Empowering. Yes we can is not just a phrase, but a movement. We CAN affect change. We CAN do what it takes to bring leadership back to our country. We CAN make a difference, you and I. We really truly can. And Barack is proof of that.
Halfway during Obama's speech, I had the feeling I needed to move again. So off I went, to the Section 511 stairwell where my friend Anthony was with his son and my J#2 friends Steve and Ruth. Once there, I watched from the top of the stairs since there were no seats to be found. Soon after, an Obama staffer came by and asked if I wanted to wave this really huge flag. What is that saying about being in the right place at the right time?
Waving the flag while fireworks went off was a surreal patriotic moment...like I was in a movie or a dream. It was all so immense and meaningful. I have been trying to put into words how I felt and I really can't begin to do it justice. Other than saying I know I was meant to be there and be a witness to what transpired on this groundbreaking day in history.
Soon enough, the speech ended, the families left the stage and the crowds began to depart. Had tried texting my friend Anthony and none of the texts were going thru. Met Steve and Ruth and waited for Anthony but we never saw him or his son.
Eventually we headed back to downtown. Easier said than done. Confusion and crowds and no sense of order. Yet, the crowd stayed calm and the mood was mostly happy.
As good as Nate and Steve were at getting me into Invesco, Ruth and her husband Steve excelled at getting me out of Invesco. We looped and curved and wiggled our way thru the crush of people to eventually wind up somewhere over near Elitch's. Near a railroad track and a body of water. It felt like we were escaping an alien invasion and were on the run. Took close to 2 & 1/2 hours to get back to downtown, but we made it.
What a night. What a memory. So many people and experiences and sensations and feelings. I am still processing what I saw, who I met and how I felt. One thing I know for sure is that this experience changed me. I have a greater sense of urgency...almost a sense of duty...to do my part and effect change.
Yes, we can. And yes, we will.