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.


  1. We forget so often just how blessed we are as a nation and a unity of people – no matter where we stand politically. Thank you for sharing the moment and reminding us.

  2. That was an amazing post. Thank you.

  3. No words_ I am sitting here now shaking thinking one week from this very moment we will be on the brink of knowing…Keep the faith

  4. That was beautiful! And yes- Barack Obama will be President in one week 🙂

  5. How moving. What’s even more moving is knowing that people all around the country are having moments similar to that–this election means so much to so many people.

  6. Hot tears are streaming down my face. Thank you. Thanks for bringing me back to the hope. For bringing it back to the amazement of this moment in time. For letting all the crap melt away, and letting me see this for what it truly is…. HISTORY.

  7. I’ve never been less embarrassed to cry at work. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I cry a lot lately for a lot of reasons. This is one of them, the fact the we are here to see this, a coming together of people that not too long ago was thought impossible. This is a moving story and one I’m glad you shared!
    Thank you.

  9. Donna Papacosta says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Erin.

  10. What an amazing story. Thank you. We can do this. We will do this.

  11. Damn. I am keeping the faith and working my angle the best I can. Sharing in those tears too.

  12. Thanks for sharing that story. It’s so funny – I was thinking about how I’ll be crying when it’s all over – no matter what, I fear – but hopefully it will be happy tears. I remember crying when Gore didn’t win. I was so mad and sad. And in 2004 I steeled myself against the results – every single echo of Bush’s I’m a uniter not a divider had by then been drowned out by his paternalistic, unitary executive way of governing. I’m hopeful but I’m also in Ohio. The rope we swing on is going to be cut on Tuesday, statistically untouchably I hope and we’ll land in a good place.

  13. Beautiful piece Erin. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  14. Such an amazing post.

    I’m rooting for you America. You CAN do this.

    I, and people like me all over the world, hope you will.

  15. Queen of Spain says:

    ahhh, now if I could just stop blubbering for 10 seconds. I think I’m emotionally spent and this last week is just going to be a series of releases for me. lol

    sorry in advance

  16. And I thought just watching it all on the television was something. Proof positive that despite all the signs otherwise, we live in truly amazing times.

  17. Come on. never thought he’d see what happen?

    Are we going to go through this the first time an Irish Catholic (wait – already happened) , a Muslim, a Jew, a non-born American is running for President?

    I love most of your posts but this just strikes me as an example of what’s WRONG rather than what’s right.

    It wasn’t about who Barack Obama is but rather WHAT he is. And that’s wrong.

    Everyone may jump down on me for this (you may unfollow me – akselsoft on twitter, BTW) – but this story, while poignant, illustrates all of the reasons why people should NOT vote. Don’t VOTE because someone is African-american or white or purple or green or Native-american or whatever. Vote because they stand for what you believe in.

    I can’t (and I don’t) believe this guy was crying because Obama was the first person (in his lifetime) who was saying and standing for what he believed in. He may believe it – but he was saying it for ALL the wrong reasons.

    I’ve said my piece – I’m a Canadian (with American roots) but still, just because a bunch of rednecks are on McCain’s bandwagon doesn’t make Obama’s campaign the “African-american” campaign and the whole “in my lifetime” piece is just crap. If he (I was going to say you, Erin, but I know your beliefs – form your blog – better than that) believed in his message, you would have believed it enough to vote when someone ELSE said the same thing.

  18. We CAN and we WILL and when Obama is elected as the 44th President of this great nation, I will weep because I helped and because we need this so bad. I can’t wait. Six days!

  19. Queen of Spain says:

    Andrew I respect your opinion, but you’re wrong.

    Obama does stand for what I believe in, and it’s NOT because he’s a person of color. And I’m sure it was the same for the man I met.

    I want just as badly to see a woman as President, but you didn’t see me voting for Hillary. And when that day does come, I too will cry and hold hands with my many sisters.

    Obama brings people together. He does. I’ve seen it.

  20. Life can be full of so many moments like this if we’d only take a chance, let our guard down and see each other’s humanity. I love that you took that chance.

  21. There’s no telling how far that man had to travel to get there. He may have spent his last dollar doing it, maybe not, but that was a wonderful moment and I know you’ll treasure it forever. No matter what, this election shows how far our nation has grown in so many ways and it will be a historic event on November 4th.

  22. Crying. Over politicians. That’s not a good sign. I worry. And I can’t wait till we get you back.

  23. Oh Andrew. I think that you’re way off base.

    It IS moving to see an African-American man become a nominee for president for the FIRST time in 232 years and I don’t see anything wrong with that man being emotionally touched by it.

    As Erin says, I will be touched when a woman becomes president but I won’t vote for her just because of her gender, color or anything else.

    Even if Sarah Palin becomes Vice President? I’ll be happy for women because that’s one more boundary we’ve breached. One more glass ceiling we’ve busted through. Even though I don’t agree with anything she stands for or does or is and I’d never vote for her.

  24. I have never read your blog before much less commented and I know we have very different political beliefs. And I really do think your story it touching. I know this election means a lot to a lot of people. But to say Obama brings people together and make it sound like when he is elected the country will rise up in unity is crazy. He brings half the country together. This election will most likely be won by a slim margain and 50% of the people will be anything but happy. As much as Democrats have hated (and that term is fluffy for the stuff I have heard said) Bush over the last 8 years, Obama is far too liberal to bring Democrats and Republicans together which is what we really need. I am not saying McCain will do any better in uniting us, but I can say FOR CERTAIN that Obama ain’t gonna do it. So I respect that you want to see him elected, but I am tired of the “bring people together” thing.

  25. I don’t get it. If Obama had knelt down and cured a baby of a brain tumor by waving his hand over it, I could understand. But why? What makes THIS guy so special that people are bawling in the streets together over him? Frankly, everything I hear about Obama scares the absolute crap out of me, and I don’t think I’m that diametrically opposed to all of you, so someone please explain it.

  26. I may belong to the other party but this was a beautiful post. It was so heart felt I even felt it. Thank you for sharing the story. It was meant to be shared.

  27. I totally teared up reading this. I am so glad you shared it. Obama gives me hope. I wish everyone could feel it.

  28. So touching. Captures his entire campaign in a single moment. Wish I had been there.


  29. TehCrim, maybe you could explain in more detail why he scares you , so that people can accurately respond. Although I’ll tell you, if it’s the socialism stuff, prepare yourself for an onslaught.

    And for the record, the idea that Obama is too liberal is misleading, if you look at his overall history. Hardcore liberals and even many moderate liberals agree that he’s pretty centrist.

  30. I can’t wait. Just a few more days. TehCrim: Obama is antithetical to the idiocy of the last eight years. He was at top of his class. He can speak a sentence without getting something wrong. He isn’t from the white guy club. He has a great family. He’s for science and technology. He’s inspiring. And, yes, he’s closing the book to a particularly bad book in our history that started with slavery and will end Nov. 4th. I can’t wait.

  31. No, his record is something separate. I don’t agree with his policies, and the socialism stuff is indeed a part of that, but what really scares me is his ties. People can say anything they want to deny the pile of associations Obama has, from Rashid Khalidi to Odinga, but the fact that all of those people endorse him (along with many prominent socialist leaders). That scares me.

    Of course, I can’t blame Obama himself for the people that like him (except for the ones he’s actively worked with), but the fact that many radicals back him so ferociously makes it obvious enough to me that they think he’ll do what they want. The gamble of whether or not he really would isn’t enough, I’d rather not even step into that arena.

    As for socialism (feel free to pile on me, I posted here, I came in expecting it), the 2001 interview where he spoke about how the constitution is only about limiting government and how it should also add what the government should do for people also scares me, but that’s because of the socialism. It’s all about opinion, and in my opinion, the whole point of the constitution was to limit government, and to change that would fundamentally alter what made this country what it is (which is a massive superpower, and it took less than 250 years to do it, all because of the constitution and limitations of government).

    Don’t get me wrong, I have some serious problems with a lot of McCain’s policies as well, and as an atheist I’m not too excited about keeping the theocracy going, but that’s a far lesser evil in my opinion to fundamentally altering everything that made us what we are.

    Also, as per Obama’s voting record, he’s the #1 liberal senator. I’ll have to disagree that he’s centrist in any way.

  32. I need to add in that I was more interested in why others were so emotional rather than explaining the same views that have been attacked already (lots of times). I do expect to get attacked for my views, but what I’m really interested in isn’t a political debate, it’s why Obama seems to have this heavenly glow about him that causes people to faint and cry. What does that? I can’t force myself to believe that his policies are causing people to cry (well, maybe people like me, but that’s crying for a different reason).

  33. This is a very touching story. I can feel your story. However, this is a very close race. We all know how the republican party operates when in a losing situation. They get low and dirty and unfortunately a lot of people buy into it. Let’s all hope for the best.

    An observant citizen!

  34. I got up this morning promising myself I wouldn’t get discouraged by lies and racism. I left my TV off. I haven’t looked at Google Reader.

    But it flooded me on Twitter and email. By noon, I was overwhelmed, discouraged, and ready to go hide under a rock, except that the No on 8 folks really need our voices and our help to counteract the propagandists on the other side…

    Your post reminded me about why we’re doing this. What’s at stake. What we will lose if we don’t keep ‘digging down and pushing on’ to the very last day.

    Thank you.

  35. Wow. A beautiful moment and a beautiful synopsis. Well done.

    I’ll keep pressing hard for Obama if you do.

    In fact, last night I volunteered at the local campaign office in Winchester, Virginia for the first time. I was so impressed by the different groups of people helping out: there were parents, grandparents, teenagers, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings; people wearing suits, jeans, and sweatpants; black, white, and hispanic; a lawyer, a construction worker; a hippie; and me.

    All of us were giving what we could give. We were fighting for something we believe in. We were unified.

  36. Wow, that was amazing. I just got chills like crazy. What a wonderful moment in time…

  37. I -loved- this story. Thanks so much for deciding to share it!

  38. Beautifully put… we are all collectively holding our breath and waiting…. waiting…

  39. Erin, you see the poetry other people miss.

    People, when you come from such a beautiful city that has been desimated by racism, you can’t help but wonder at the ability of one man who is so capable, smart, elloquent & passionate that people like my grandparents can overcome their deeply engrained predjudices to see him for what he is. It gives back a kind of hope in our country that has been pointed at as naive & idealistic for generations. He is so much more than just his color & that is exactly why he will win.

  40. When are we allowed to be humans? Feeling, compassionate human beings?
    I respect that some of your really don’t like Obama for a lot of valid reasons. I understand a few more of you can’t stand the guy for illogical reasons. So be it. I get it. You are voting for the other guy.
    This was a post about two people who shared an extraordinary moment.
    If I was there I would have been crying too.. I would have cried because Malcolm, Martin, Fannie Lou, Harriet, Ida, and a bunch more could not have foreseen such a day. I never thought I would live to see such a day.
    If you don’t understand why this touches my heart then maybe you need to take a step back. Ask yourself what is the difference is between being a human being with history and feelings vs. being so “right” that nothing else can matter and every thought is a weapon. Seriously, you need to transmute that fear into love.

  41. It is wonderful to be alive right now, in this time, to see all this unfold. After Barack wins, I plan on putting my yard sign in a box so I can tell my grandkids about this election and what it felt like to be a part of this amazing time.

  42. Oh QOS — I know exactly what you mean. I knew this day would come but I never thought I’d be around to see it. It’s happening exactly the way I would have predicted though: unexpectedly and yet inevitably. Unexpectedly because who would have seriously thought four years ago that Obama would have arrived seemingly out of the blue and come this far this quickly; although anyone who saw him or heard him speak could see (if they were looking) that he has the poise and intelligence to do the job, if just given a chance. Inevitably because it was bound to happen sooner or later but it had to happen with someone extremely calm, thoughtful and intelligent, which coincidentally is exactly what we need in a leader after the catastrophe that has been GWB.

    I’m thrilled (and hopeful) for him, and for us as well. Even David Brooks came close to endorsing him, pointing out that he has all the intelligence and charisma of Bill Clinton without the need for adulation, as well as the competence of LBJ without the need for power.

  43. I find myself getting more and more anxious for election day. Though I’m terribly excited and I can’t wait because I know Obama’s campaign has worked so hard and achieved so much, I feel terrified with a true distrust of the system. Robert Scoble hits it right on. “Obama is antithetical to the idiocy of the last eight years.” Obama is a powerful choice and certainly not because of the color of his skin. His intelligence and genuine leadership could lead this country out of the funk we’ve been stewing in for the past eight years. And even without closing the book on a heinous chapter of our nation’s history, getting the US back on track with intelligent leadership would be historical in itself.

  44. Thanks for giving me a happy cry today.

    Gena – your comment is awesome. Thank you.

  45. Sathington Willoby says:

    Awesome moment QoS! Hell, I started bawling when he won the primary, just overwhelming, so I know where you’re coming from! It’s about time people start realizing that Barack knows what he’s doing, and he does it for us, unlike the beast that is the GOP. Yes we can, and we will! Thanks for sharing!!

  46. This is a beautiful story. I welled up reading it!
    I think, in some small way, that it is better that you don’t have a picture of this man anymore. Somehow, it makes the moment real – less commercial…
    It adds to the moment somehow.

  47. A friend of mine recommended this post through Google’s RSS reader, and I wanted to say hi. Rarely do I read (sorry, Nina) friends’ recommended posts… hell, most the time I don’t even read the entries in my proper RSS feed most the time.

    Anyway, your post touched me. I just wanted to say that. As far as not having his photo, maybe it’s better you don’t. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to have so much as sometimes a memory is more vivid than the truth. This way it’s truly yours only.

    Keep on keepin’ on…

  48. Thanks QOS, i also feel drained, i can no longer deal with the partisan pettiness. This post gave me courage for the last leg. For that, i thank you.

    As for TechCrim and Andrew. No, it’s not about his skin color. It’s about who i FEEL his is as a person, the personality part that shows despite the stump speeches and the truth-twisting that happens on both sides.

    I see an erratic McCain, who stops his campaign for a day trying to make a point that only he cares for the country enough (in fact, i resent the entire “country first” line, somehow implying Obama doesn’t), threatening not to debate because he will save the world from the financial crisis. I see a McCain who chooses his VP after meeting her once. I see a McCain that gets red in the face whenever Obama says something to upset him.

    I remember seeing Bush and thinking “he reminds me of a little boy who’s playing with his toy soldiers, and he just found a new country on the map that he could place them in, and he’s so excited to play war”. I never trusted that man to be the head of our troops. And i don’t trust McCain to be either (5th from the bottom of his grad class, and that’s just for starters).

    And that feeling of distrust that you feel in Obama? Maybe it’s because he thinks before he speaks, because he’s calm and collected. Don’t mistake smarts for secrecy. Since when do we expect our candidates to be just like us? i want my president to be smarter and better educated than everyone else i know.

    I trust Obama because he is steadfast, because he’s never been in “reactive” mode, because he shows me his personality and character and i feel that’s the tone he will set in the Oval Office.

    Apparently, the distrust of Obama also comes from his associations. Seriously? You really want to discuss associations? Because if we’re opening his closet to find skeletons, we need to do the same for McCain, and trust me, at that point, it’s a numbers game, my friends.

    No, i don’t vote because he’s black. I vote because he exudes strength and leadership, and he has my vote of confidence. But i agree with Gena, let’s not forget our humanity here, this is also a great moment, because finally, this country can elect itself a black man. It was about time, America!

  49. Beautiful moment. I’m sitting here crying. Thank you for sharing it.

  50. cheapsuits says:

    Thank you for your blog post!

    I thought of you when I first saw this video[link posted below]. Probably, sad as it sounds, because you are the most pro Obama person I know. I was a big fan of this original commercial back in the day. At first glance I thought this redux was funny. Then after watching it a few times and realizing that the script and action follows really closely to the original, it began to sink in. It is not funny at all. It’s all very sad.

    The election is a few days away and I am still undecided and have terrible mixed emotions. I honestly don’t know what I am going to do on Nov 4th.

    Watching this makes me pause and think back to ‘the day’ when things were indeed funny.

    Maybe I should watch it again.

    Video link:

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