I Don’t Know His Name

There is a story I haven’t told yet from my time at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

I didn’t mention it to anyone. Not my colleagues there or my husband at home. I’ve kept it tucked in my mind, because in all honesty, I wasn’t sure how to articulate what occurred.

On the second to last day of my trip to Denver I was on the phone with my kids outside the Pepsi Center. In between trying to coax my 3-year old into telling me about her day and explaining to my 5-year old why he needed to take a break from the Wii, I saw a man looking up at the Pepsi Center sign.

There were a million people around, all rushing into the Center to hear Joe Biden. So it was jam packed. Just a few minutes earlier the Daily Show was taping out front, and other camera crews were set up all over the place. In short, it was chaotic.

The man was probably about my age, 30’s. He was African-American, and carrying a plastic shopping bag. It was the cheap kind of bag. The ones you can mostly see through. I could see toothpaste, a toothbrush, some clothes. It was as if he had lost or broken his suitcase and had to resort to whatever he could find around. He was dressed very sharply, slacks and a button down shirt. So the bag seemed very out of place and caught my attention. Otherwise, I might have missed him. Around his neck was a credential to get inside and a digital camera.

As I hung up the phone with my kids, I watched him struggle to take a photo of himself in front of the DNC sign, and I walked over and offered my assistance.

He said thank you, I took the photo, and as I handed back the camera I asked him where he was from. Small talk.

He was shaking his head. Not because he didn’t want to tell me, but because he was too emotional to speak. It was then I could see the tears in his eyes.

Of course, having been an emotional wreck over all this myself, I put my hand on his and without us having even exchanged names or hometowns or anything I too began to cry.

All I could say to him, with a smile through my tears, was ‘I know. I know.’

He firmly grasped my hand and said ‘I never thought I’d see this happen. Not in my lifetime. Not ever.

I nodded. These two total strangers welling up outside the Pepsi Center holding hands.

He thanked me for taking his picture, gave me a hug and said ‘and I was here‘ and walked away.

I have no idea who he was. I have no idea what happened to his suitcase. I have no idea why at that moment two complete strangers held hands and cried in a sea of people.

Wait, that’s not right. I do know why. I know exactly why.

I took a photo of the man with my cell phone camera as he walked away, and then deleted it. At first I thought I needed to document what just happened, and then I thought maybe I was crazy for thinking I had this ‘moment.’

Now I’m mad I deleted the photo. Because the past year and so-many-odd months for me has been about that moment. Because of that moment. The sheer idea of that moment when this all started and realization in Denver that yes we really can come together.

There is one week left. One more week. And I know we’re tired. And I know we’re sick of all this political sniping and endless punditry. But for one more week I can push on and you can push on because we HAVE to get to Nov. 4th and elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Because together we can change this country and together we can change the world.

Comments

  1. cheapsuits says:
  2. Erin, thank you so much for this post. I feel it when I read your words and when I stand amongst the crowd at an Obama rally…it’s hope, it’s inspiration, and it’s been missing for way too long.

  3. Wow. What a moment, etched in your mind forever I think. Thank you for sharing this post. Six days away now! I’m a Canadian living in California, so can’t vote but am volunteering for the campaign…

  4. What an AMAZING story. I am so glad that you waited to post that – until just barely a week after I’ve become addicted to your blog – so that I could have the chance to read it, in the here and now.
    If that’s not touching, I don’t know what is. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. That reminds me of a story. I was working as a cabbie and picked up a Nun last year around this time. She got into my cab, and I could not stop staring at her, she was very attractive for a Nun. She Looks up and asks why are you staring like that at me? ‘I have a question to ask you but I don’t want to offend you.’ She answered, ‘My son, you cannot offend me. When you’re as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive.’

    ‘Well, I’ve always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me.’ She responds, ‘well, let’s see what we can do a bout that: #1, you have to be single and #2, you must be Catholic.’ ‘Yes, I’m single and Catholic!’ ‘OK’ the nun says. ‘Pull into the next alley.’

    This Nun gave me a kiss that would make a hooker blush. But when they get back on the road I felt so terrible and she could see it. ‘My dear child Whats wrong? She says. ‘Forgive me but I lied and I must confess, I’m married and not Catholic. ‘‘That’s OK… My name is Kevin and I’m going to a Halloween party.’

    Moral of the story…Things may not be what they seem.

  6. Queen of Spain says:

    Ricky I’m fairly sure Obama is a man of color. I mean, he might turn out to be a white nun on Tuesday…but I doubt it ;)

    ahhh, I crack me up

  7. Thanks for sharing this story. Now you’re making me cry!

  8. Rick, your story reminds me of a story as well.

    I was working as a cabbie and picked up a Nun last year around this time. She got into my cab, and I could not stop staring at her, she was very attractive for a Nun. She Looks up and asks why are you staring like that at me? ‘I have a question to ask you but I don’t want to offend you.’ She answered, ‘My son, you cannot offend me. When you’re as old as I am and have been a nun as long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about everything. I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that I would find offensive.’

    ‘Well, I’ve always had a fantasy to have a nun kiss me.’ She responds, ‘well, let’s see what we can do a bout that: #1, you have to be single and #2, you must be Catholic.’ ‘Yes, I’m single and Catholic!’ ‘OK’ the nun says. ‘Pull into the next alley.’

    So I did and just before we were about to kiss I took a deep breath and then I noticed that the nun had an adam’s apple, a 5 o’clock shadow, and a really deep voice. Then I realized that there was no way a nun would actually kiss me regardless of my religious affiliation or marital status.

    The moral of the story? Things may not always be what they seem but if you pay attention it’s pretty easy to tell reality from fantasy.

    BTW, I can’t believe you made out with a dude. I’m telling your wife.

  9. Andrew, this election is about SO many things… we believe in O’s WORDS/ACTIONS not his skin color. Yet, his color does have some affect… my white 13 yr old daughter is in a city school with 80% students of color. (my two grand children are biracial). The teachers and administration are 98% white! I assume you are white, I infer that you do not feel the racial under current due to your color. Please ask friends in your community of color about under current discrimination going on today…you may not see it. For the first time in 9 years at our school I see my daughters black/multi racial and white friends getting involved in this election! I see them excited and actually campaigning! I see her black teens friends who get followed in the local stores for fear of shoplifting (the white kids do not get treated like this!) fill with hope. Obama is about hope for the US people, he is about fairness, listening, inner drive, care… his skin tone is only one tiny part…but is is a real part.

  10. The Kaiser,
    Reality from fantasy seems pretty difficult for some people now days and don’t worry about telling my wife she knows : -o

  11. So much smacks only rhetorical
    But sweat equity markets are rooted deep
    Now reaching beyond the expected rise.
    The faint Polaroid of what could be
    Colours now strengthen to what should be
    Vivid reality breaks out of 2-D
    Freedom loved is more truly free
    Not one man, not one time
    But let not the milestone unnoticed pass us by.

  12. Beautiful post, Erin. Like Mary who posted, I think I’ll save our Obama sign to have as a souvenir. I have a good feeling about Tuesday.

  13. To the folks who don’t see what is wonderful about this story and what is inspiring about this candidate, thanks for your $.02 and now please take your worn-out allegations, doom and gloom somewhere else. In case you hadn’t noticed, no one was deingrating your candidate — his name doesn’t even appear until you bring it up — so you don’t need to take yet another opportunity to remind us all what you don’t like about this very honorable and capable person.

  14. Beautiful.

  15. Amazing, amazing tale.

  16. I am Irish, and I mean Irish from Ireland, but both my parents were here in the US when Kennedy ran for election. I remember their stories about that time and I think of them often during this election. Legitimized was how they described it. Sure, they were cops and firemen (Men then) and nurses and teachers but his election was huge for them. This story reminded me of their stories.
    I hope beyond hope Obama wins on Tuesday for me and my family but I marvel at the value it will bring to some mother who looks down at her own son and says “You see …do you see!!!”

  17. Your story was very moving. First and foremost, Obama is what this country needs. Secondly, why in the world can’t it be a proud moment for African Americans? I would be singing and dancing in the streets, blowing my horn, and doing some high-fiving and back-slapping if Obama’s election were such a momentous occasion for my race. It’s not my race, though — so I’ll just be singing and dancing in the streets.

  18. That was very moving. What I think some people do not understand is that, yes it is 2008, but African American people in this country are still discriminated against. And Obama becoming president is a big deal and I hope it happens for you, that gentleman and for every child out there who was not born the “right” color.

    I live in NY right outside of NYC and you cannot believe how many people here are not voting for him because (whisper) “he’s black”.

  19. Kildar says:

    How do you feel now, out of curiosity?

  20. Obama is a great man.. no doubt. Thanks for sharing your experience at least you got that.

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  1. [...] Queen of Spain: I Don't Know His Name "He firmly grasped my hand and said ‘I never thought I’d see this happen. Not in my lifetime. Not ever.‘" [...]

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