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The day that changed the world

US citizen Tanya Pampalone headed to the Hyatt hotel to watch, wait and finally weep as Obama triumphed

I was a sceptic up until the last minute. When I crawled into bed on Tuesday night I didn’t know who would be the next president of America. I wanted Barack Obama, even bet on him winning the popular vote by a slight margin, but I knew there was a chance, a good chance, that I’d be disappointed. After all, for the past eight years all I have felt is disappointed.

But morning came and I was up at 5:15am, in the shower and on the road to the Rosebank Hyatt by 5:45am, where the consulate was putting on an election breakfast. As I drove, I knew he had it. The reports were streaming over the radio: California and Oregon weren’t yet in and Obama was so far ahead of McCain that there was no way to catch up. I dialled my sister – the Democrat, not the Republican – in California.

”It’s going to be a landslide,” I shouted into my cellphone as I drove by Zoo Lake. ”I can’t believe it!” ”Me neither,” she shouted back.

”YES WE CAN!”

By the time I reached the Hyatt, it was 5:59am. A half-hour later, in the Hyatt’s restaurant, filled with candidate cutouts, flat screen TVs, American flags and a map that was turning bluer by the minute, I was surrounded by some of my closest friends in the city – an American in full Obama regalia, her South African husband and a Serb – as I watched as McCain conceded the election. And then, minutes later, we stood together as America’s next president addressed the world. Tears streamed down my face, I sniffed, a starched white serviette in hand. I couldn’t believe the Americans came through.

My Serbian friend patted my back and whispered in my ear: ”When will you start believing me when I tell you things?” He had been rooting for Obama from the start, shaking his head each time I insisted that he didn’t understand that there was no way the Americans would elect a black man as president.

The more Obama spoke, the more I cried. I was proud of him. I was proud of my people, proud of the world.

I turned to my American friend. ”Maybe it’s safe to move home now,” I said, blubbing on to her shoulder. ”Not quite,” she said.

No. I guess not. But maybe soon.

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Tanya Pampalone
Guest Author

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