It was a brisk fall morning. The brown autumn leaves were in a huge pile on the street of my polling place in South Oak Park. The usual hawkers were notably absent. The “Hawk” was not. The Fifth Third Bank clock said it was freezing, 32 degrees.

Inside crowded Precinct 36 at Lincoln School, activity was teeming. Standing in line was a neighbor, Mr. and Mrs. Larry Fairchild, whose college-age son (like my twin sons) voted for the first time.

“It’s a good omen to see you this morning, Mr. West,” said Mrs. Fairchild.

“Ditto,” I responded.

Another neighbor, Rory, was seen passing out political literature at the Blue Line Oak Park stop. “It’s a great day for winning,” he said, asking about my sons, whom he said “probably voted for whatever presidential candidate best represented fiscal hope.”

My Intermediate Italian teacher at Triton College, Professor Joe Bertolli, explained the election this way: “The guy you know versus the guy you don’t is an easier pill to swallow.”

The Popeye’s Restaurant drive-thru clerk on Madison was nervous about the early exit polls that seemed favorable for a Massachusetts-based candidate. The Jewel’s cashier down the street, on the other hand, gave thumbs up for the Illinois-based candidate. The barber near Ridgeland projected, “The incumbent will prevail, despite their dirty tricks.”

Later that night, when the voting was all over, I cruised to half a dozen night spots. Things were rather still until I hit FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. The local Democratic Party hosted a lively election night party. One of its staffers, Bonnie, greeted me at the door and reminded me she hadn’t seen me since a similar presidential election party in 2000. It wasn’t so upbeat then.

“We’re still here, I see,” she said.

Meanwhile the MSNBC pundits were reporting how “the industrial heartland responded well to President Obama’s automobile factory bailout.” The numbers kept trickling in until an announcement projected “President Obama is the winner.”

A lady in front of me named Kay, who had offered me a chair, yelled, “This needed to happen. I’m so happy.” She told me a story about how she went knocking on doors in Iowa last week for Obama. “I met an old lady who said Governor Romney made her sick. That made me laugh.”

Laura, an administrator with the state, said, “Obama’s victory is a defeat of racism. It is the coming together of people in the United States. I’m so happy!”

Perhaps a black case worker next to her summed it up best when she said, “It means everything. It’s a wonderful day in history. I was a little worried. Not anymore. I can finally go to sleep.”

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