What it was like to be in the room as Donald Trump became president-elect

President-elect Donald Trump waves to his supporters after giving his acceptance speech during his election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/John Locher)
President-elect Donald Trump waves to his supporters after giving his acceptance speech during his election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/John Locher)

NEW YORK (MEDIA GENERAL) — On Tuesday, most Americans chose between their preferred major party presidential candidate. However, as a reporter, I had the unique chance and choice on which candidate I wanted to cover on election night.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign made credentials for their election night party easy to access and for a long time, it seemed like it was the more organized of the two. However, after watching the 2016 race unfold in states like New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania – I knew one thing for certain tonight: a Donald Trump watch party would be unique.

The decision to choose to watch Mr. Trump’s victory party firsthand paid off handsomely by allowing this reporter to witness a historic win.

When we first arrived Tuesday evening, after hours of security checks, the mood was somber. Only a handful of supporters arrived before 7:30 p.m. and some indicated they had no idea what they would witness. In the room, there were two giant projection screens but the only channel supporters could see was FOX News.

As states were called, the audience had no qualms about reacting. However, while some political pundits expected Clinton’s campaign to rack up electoral leads early – instead the opposite was happening. As news broke of wins in states in North Carolina and Florida, the impossible became the inevitable.

Tuesday night’s celebration occurred in a smallish ballroom at New York City’s midtown Hilton hotel. The venue, which was a surprise for me, personally, sits just a few blocks away from Donald Trump’s infamous Trump Tower. Guests, however, didn’t mind the venue and as the electoral lead grew – so did the size of the crowd.

By 10 p.m., the room was packed. Almost every Trump supporter in front of our press position proudly wore the “Make America Great Again” hat. A few Trump supporters — a very small number, in my experience — showed visible disdain for the press but largely remained celebratory as the news came in.

It wasn’t until around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning that it became clear – Donald Trump was about to become the president-elect. The tension in the room turned into anxiety – how long would people have to wait to see their new leader?

When Mrs. Clinton announced she’d decided to skip speaking Wednesday morning – the crowd hissed and heckled. Some supporters proudly chanted “lock her up,” a chant we’ve heard on the campaign trail before. The chants didn’t last long but were a reminder of how divisive the election was.

The moment no one is likely to forget

During the 2 a.m. hour Wednesday – everything changed.

Donald Trump, projected by the major news networks, was declared the president-elect of the United States. The crowd knew the moment they had prayed, hoped and waited for was happening. As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence reached the stage – the anticipation only grew larger.

After thanking his family, staff and supporters – Pence gave his new boss the ultimate introduction. Mr. Trump was then introduced as president-elect but with a familiar theme: the music theme from the 1997 thriller “Air Force One.”

The music hit home with me. This wasn’t a movie but a moment that will live in history forever. To witness it firsthand will live in my memory forever – long after it’s vanished from my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I’m not discussing my personal feelings on the outcome or the candidates – there was just something about witnessing history as a reporter that fulfills a lifelong career goal.

The next few months ahead of inauguration will be filled with long hours, confusion and conflict – but I’ll be there on January 20 to once again witness history as a news reporter.

Mark Meredith is a national political reporter for the Media General Television Group based in Washington D.C. Follow @markpmeredith on Twitter
 

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