WASHINGTON — In the early morning hours of Nov. 9, hundreds of people gathered outside of the White House, stunned.
Many assumed they would be celebrating the election of the first female president. Now, they held their Clinton-Kaine posters at half-mast.
Dozens came decked out in red “Make America Great Again “hats, chanting with glee and swinging from trees. But few thought their candidate would actually be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this January.
The occasional “Build a wall” cheer broke out, immediately deafened by overwhelming cheers of “Hill-a-ry” or “F*** Donald Trump.” This crowd, almost all students from nearby American University and George Washington University, was still in Clinton’s camp.
After the Associated Press called the state of Pennsylvania for Republican Trump, one young man pulled his friend in close and lifted up his phone.
“Let’s take one last selfie before the end of the world.”
The AP called the contest for Trump just after 2:30 a.m. ET.
For many on the streets outside the White House, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
“I woke up this morning thinking she had it in the bag,” said Emily Martin, a freshman at George Washington. “I thought at this time tonight, I’d be going to bed after electing the first female president of the United States.”
Elijah Aquilina and his friend Eli Seaman held an anti-Trump poster in stunned silence.
“We were all drinking and singing and having fun, but then there was this creeping depression,” he said. “It wasn’t like the ripping of a Band-Aid. It was a slow burn, and now we’re here. This is the saddest day of my life.”
Nearby, Jessie Montague, also a freshman at George Washington, said, “It’s like a car accident you can’t turn your eyes away from.”
Even some Trump supporters were at a loss.
“A couple of hours ago, I never thought this could happen,” said Michael Postupak, 19, who declined to say whether he voted for Trump. “It was the perfect underdog moment.”
John L’Insalata stood by one of the four trees on Pennsylvania Avenue just in front of the White House. His fraternity brothers had climbed up one of them, shouting “Make America Great Again” and waving posters. A Trump supporter and George Washington student, L’Insalata was excited for his president-elect to repeal Obamacare and give more support to the U.S. military.
“This was crazy huge,” he said. “I’m surprised to say the least. I didn’t expect him to win, or even get more than 200 electoral votes.”
Many of the Clinton supporters expressed concerns about their friends who are female, non-white, or LGBT under a Trump presidency, though at least one tried to see a silver lining.
“Hopefully this will lead to a Democratic takeover in 2018, and maybe a Democratic wave in 2020,” said Spencer Hettrich, an American University student. “That’s the only thing keeping me from breaking down right now.”