By the time President Barack Obama emerged to speak after his nail-biting yet decisive victory late Tuesday, it was after midnight.
Nearly two hours had elapsed since he had been declared the victor, time filled with video montages, music, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney's short and graceful concession speech. When Obama finally appeared on stage at the McCormack Place in downtown Chicago with his family, the crowd greeted them all with raucous cheers. Those further back in the throng couldn't see the podium and had to watch the president's reserved, optimistic remarks on the hanging monitors.
They gazed up with a mixture of fatigue, pride, joy, and excitement. They smiled. They applauded. They looked resolute.
The speech ended, and the Obama's and Vice President Joe Biden's families came out and congratulated one another. Clouds of red, white, and blue confetti sprung from the floor up toward the ceiling. Obama's face filled the monitors above. As he was about to exit the stage, he stopped, turned around, and walked back out, not yet ready to leave. He waived and acknowledged more cheers. He was saying something, and it was easy to read his lips.
"One more time."
Although a mass exodus of rally attendees from McCormick Place occurred within the first few minutes of President Obama's acceptance speech, the departure didn't detract from the excitement of the remaining attendees.
On the contrary, the fresh absence of about a hundred seemed to amplify the remaining crowd's exuberant joy, which came out in the form of uncontrollable cheering and the shushing of interrupting audience members, alike.
Obama's speech, which focused on topics including bipartisan cooperation, a unified, forward-thinking approach to improving the nation's future, and the debt of gratitude he felt he owed to the supporting public, was meant to conclude the night.
But instead of cueing the crowd to rest, the speech served to rekindle the collective spirit of those left sitting and standing in every possible nook of the venue.
"I think it was typical Obama: inclusive, respectful, giving all the credit to the people," said Evanston native Jean Murphy.