By Lorraine Woellert
A biting wind swept through Boston on Nov. 3, bringing a chill to a city that only days ago was a giddy witness to a different kind of history. Last week, Bostonians trooped around bleary-eyed from lack of sleep after staying glued to the television until the wee hours, watching their beloved Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
This day the city was sleep-deprived again, this time losing shuteye to a long night of cliffhanger election returns that showed native son Senator John Kerry locked in a dead heat against President George W. Bush.
By morning, the results were still uncertain, but the direction was clear: Kerry was headed for a loss. By 11:30 a.m., a crowd began gathering outside Fanueil Hall, where Kerry was set to make his concession speech at 1 p.m.
Well-wishers arrived first, clustered against the fierce wind, clutching their now-limp campaign signs and chatting up reporters for the latest news. An Interstate Rental Service truck pulled up, unloading scaffolding and kleig lights for the final speech. It seemed to get colder. "Last week it was a Red Sox hangover. This week it's a Kerry hangover," said Carol Matyka, a campaign volunteer.
Then, a curious development. After Kerry campaign staffers and the national media had been herded inside the small building for the privilege of actually witnessing the final speech, the rest of America was left standing outside.
EYES ON IRAQ.
One might think that this particular bunch would be all-Kerry, all the time. But as the crowd grew, filling the cobbled courtyard outside Kerry Central, it became abundantly clear that even in Boston, even here, even at this moment, the people are divided. Frank Spellman, a Catholic, confessed to voting for Kerry with serious reservations. One moderate Republican said he refused to vote for Bush, showed up to support Kerry, but cast a write-in ballot for Arizona Senator John McCain instead of the Democrat. A slightly embarrassed Judy Zizza admitted writing in talk show host Charlie Rose for President. "I just wish we had some fresh blood," said Zizza, a legal assistant from Beverly, Mass. In Kerry, "I didn't see any change."
Lori Hendry was there, too. Tall, tan, blonde, with bright pink lipstick and a fashionable leopard-print bag, she stood on tip-toes with her camera. But Hendry is a die-hard Republican who voted for Bush in her home state of Florida. "I'm so glad he won," she said -- and some around her murmured their approval. Hendry had trooped down to Kerry Central today only to get a picture of the candidate for her ailing mother, a Democrat.
"The war is what really divided people," Hendry said, but that will all change now, she predicted. With the election out of the way, Bush will be free of political restraints to take a more aggressive approach in Iraq. "He's going to have to come back with a vengeance."
"Oh no," cried Dorothy Share, a petite, 80-year-old retiree from Boston, who had been listening in. Standing a foot shorter than Hendry, wearing black fleece sweats, a bulky jacket, and sneakers, Share's blue eyes filled with tears. "It's going to be dreadful. I'm devastated. There's been too much religion brought into this campaign," she said.
"What's wrong with that?" asked Hendry. "How can people separate themselves from their beliefs?" By the way, she asked Share, "Do you think Kerry's wife had anything to do with it? She can't identify with the average person."
"What's an average person?" Share said. Forlorn, she raised her hands in frustration and looked around for moral support.
Then sirens, a buzz of excitement, and a rush toward the street. Kerry had arrived. The debate was forgotten -- for now.
Woellert, a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Business Week, is in Boston covering the election outcome.