A stony silence turned to sheer horror early Wednesday for Hillary Clinton’s supporters at what was meant to be her presidential victory party as it became painfully clear she would not close the gap with Donald Trump.
One by one, states turned Republican red on the interactive map of the country. One by one, dejected Clinton fans left in tears without even seeing their beloved candidate.
‘It’s a nightmare,’ said Jeannette Barbasch, a 50-something Clinton backer leaving the cavernous Javits Centre on the west side of Midtown Manhattan, which had been decked out in American flags for Clinton’s expected win.
‘We’re totally distraught – we never thought this could happen.’
Brian Smith, a 40-year-old consultant from New York, said he simply could not process what had happened.
‘It’s been too overwhelming to see things shift in a day, in an hour, in a minute,’ he lamented.
Indeed, no one was expecting such a violent slap in the face. Some were saying it would be close, but no one imagined the night would turn into a political funeral for the 69-year-old former first lady, senator and secretary of state.
Faces once bright with the hope of seeing America’s first female president elected started growing longer and longer at about 9:00pm Tuesday, when the results appeared to be leaning Trump’s way.
‘Not great,’ said Joan Divenuti, a retired rail worker who came from Massachusetts. ‘Florida was always a problem,’ she said, shaking her head.
It was not long before the US television networks called the Sunshine State for Trump.
The New York Times only had bad news for them, with their forecast for Trump’s chances of winning rising as the night wore on – from 53 per cent to 70 per cent to 87 per cent... to 95 per cent.
Heads were shaking in front of the giant screens beaming the results to the crowd, and the voices of reporters echoed in the huge hall, which was otherwise silent.
Supporters frantically refreshed their smartphones in search of better news, and Clinton staff – who danced to the tunes of Lady Gaga at a final campaign rally in Raleigh just 24 hours before – seemed despondent.
Clinton decided to remain at her hotel, calling Trump to concede. She was due to speak early Wednesday.
‘We are disgusted, embarrassed, we are sorry on behalf of our country that the white male uneducated vote has spoken today,’ railed Celia Rowlson-Hall, a 32-year-old filmmaker.
‘We, as the other half of the country that believes in love, unity, and fairness – we have to gather together even stronger to fight against this man who only represents hate and bigotry and xenophobia.’
Nearby, 40-something Anne Shaw, a civil rights attorney from Illinois, could not hold back her disappointment.
‘Trump is a nut case – he is all over the place,’ Shaw said.
The real danger for Shaw comes from Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, who she deemed ‘crazy.’
Earlier, at the food court located underneath the hall where Clinton had been expected to write her name in the history books, two young women sobbed, and the alcohol was free-flowing.
At a table, two other women stared blankly, their hands on their heads.
‘It is surreal,’ said one government employee who gave her first name as Margarita, a beer in front of her.
She says she fears a new era in America – not just in terms of politics, but also from those who voted for the 70-year-old Trump.
‘Our lives are not safe – as queer women, as brown women,’ she said, struggling to put her feelings into words.
Many spoke about what they felt was total ignorance among Trump supporters.
‘I think these people probably flunked out of school – they don’t know history, they don’t understand the world,’ said Elmy Bermejo, who travelled to the Big Apple from San Francisco for the occasion.
But Bermejo tried to see the bright side on a dark night.
‘After I have a stiff drink of tequila, I’m going to get up, and since I’m a hopeful person, then I’ll do whatever I can to make sure we vote him out of office, because that’s what democracy is about,’ she said.
Shock was the dominant reaction, rather than anger, especially in New York, a Democratic bastion that voted for Clinton – seemingly very far away from Trump’s America that disdains Washington insiders.
‘We definitely knew it was close – not this close,’ said 22-year-old Evynn Stengel, who started drinking before the disheartening results started trickling in.
‘We feel like we live in a bubble – voting for Trump to me is so shocking.’
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