As soon as CNN on Saturday declared former Vice President Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election, Millie Hernandez exhaled and bounded out of her house.
“We have a real president! We have a real president!” Hernandez chanted while waving a large American flag at the corner of Jackson Boulevard and Oak Park Avenue.
“The first day of the election, my family and I were practically crying, because we thought Trump was going to win,” Hernandez said, as passing drivers honked their horns in agreement. “But we had faith and knew that at the end of the day, democracy would prevail.”
A few doors down, Hernandez’s neighbors, Leonard Go and his wife Jessica Roberts, casually gathered on their front lawn, enjoying an unusually warm and sunny November day.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Roberts said. “Everyone is letting out a sigh of relief and this weather is a sign from above that we’re on the right track.”
A few doors down from Go and Roberts, Julieus Thomas, 29, was dancing on his porch and waving an American flag while Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” blared from a speaker.
“I didn’t think I was going to feel this way, but when I woke up and saw that CNN finally projected it, it felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders,” said Thomas, who is Black. “It’s been so hard in this country. I’ve felt like I’ve had to bite my tongue for four years and do what we’ve always done — play the role, fit the part and survive. It finally feels like this roller coaster that hopped off the rails is back on track and we can enjoy the ride again.”
Thomas said that Biden’s win has prompted a rare moment of solidarity on his block.
“My block has never been this unified before,” Thomas said. “Right after they called the race, everybody came out and we were waving flags and honking. It’s a really good vibe today. And who knew that I was going to DJ the revolution?”
Roughly a mile west, River Forest residents Melissa Heally, Deb Wolkstein and Erika Bachman were wrapping up their impromptu mass celebration in Scoville Park that they organized around the same time that Hernandez was waving her flag in revelry on Jackson and Oak Park Avenue.
“This was just really impromptu,” Heally said. “Where were we going to gather together and celebrate during COVID-19? So, we decided to come out on the corner and celebrate with other people and each other. That was happening the whole time and it was so fun.”
“There were so many people out with signs who joined us and other people brought instruments,” Wolkstein said.
“It was all really joyful,” said Bachner, a River Forest village trustee. “We’re feeling a lot of joy.”
“This is a good day,” Heally said. “It doesn’t feel real. We can finally breathe again.”