11/05/08 — Taking part in making U.S. history

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Taking part in making U.S. history

By Anessa Myers And Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 5, 2008 1:46 PM


Barack Obama supporters Wilda Edwards, left, and Margaret L. Cherry are all smiles as they watch the election results on a large-screen TV at the Goldsboro Community Multiplex Tuesday night.

Standing with her 21-year-old daughter, Amazing, and other Barack Obama supporters late Tuesday evening, Anita Jones began to cry.

"Our ancestors fought for this. This is a day my children and grandchildren will hear about," the African-American said. "I don't have the words. I'm just so glad. It's not if we can do it anymore, it's yes we can. We did it."

She was one of many at the Goldsboro Multiplex, unable to turn away from the historic headline scrolling across a large television screen.

Humberto Gomez was another.

"I am just elated. I'm happy," he said. "It's a change that we really wanted, and it was a true coalition of people -- blacks, Latinos, whites -- that supported (Obama)."

But the reactions did not stop there.

In fact, many local residents talked about little other than the latest presidential election this morning during extended chats over a cup of coffee.

Like 63-year-old Jerry Phillips, a retired businessman who was less than thrilled to wake up to a President-elect Obama.

"I went to bed. I really thought (McCain) was going to prove the polls wrong," he said. "When I saw the news this morning, I couldn't believe it. Really, I couldn't. I guess all it takes to be president is a nice suit and giving good speeches."

Phillips was one of several who said they backed McCain in the election.

But through the disappointment, most said they would keep an open mind for the next four years.

"Well, the country put him in there, so let's see what he's made of," said Thomas Reynolds, a 49-year-old who called Obama's tax increase on those making $200,000 or more unfair. "Now, I won't say I am going to like it, but he is going to be the president, so I think all Americans should support him."

He shook his head for a minute.

"Yeah, I don't like it," he added. "But I guess I will learn to deal with it."

Valerie West wasn't sure she, or her 80-year-old parents, would ever live to see a black man elected president.

So when Obama took the election, she was elated.

"It's a sensation," she said. "My parents lived to see this, and that's a blessing."

Others took part in celebrations, too -- some, like 17-year-old Kaiyana West, who weren't even old enough to vote.

And then there were the first-time voters.

At 23, Jack Willis was one of them.

"What an election to come in on, you know? I feel like my vote really made a difference," he said.

And while he would not say whom he voted for, the grin on his face when a little girl walked by in an "Obama for America" T-shirt gave it away.

"All I will say is that I am happy I was part of this election," he said. "It will go down in history."

But some, like Eugene Tipton, fear history might remember 2008 as the year the country made "the wrong call."

"I think a lot of people voted with stars in their eyes," the 72-year-old said. "They will regret it if this nation gets attacked again. Obama had nothing on (McCain) when it comes to keeping us safe."

But even Tipton, a self-described "diehard Republican" promised to give the president-elect a chance.

"I don't have a good feeling about him, but I'm not always right," he said. "For the country's sake, I hope I'm wrong. And if I am, come find me and I'll admit it."

Charles Olson isn't worried.

So as he celebrated an Obama victory, he focused on the moment -- not the four years to come.

"Next to 9/11, I believe this is going to be one of the most historical times," he said. "In our lifetime, I think this will be No. 2."