In Homewood, an event greeted with tears, glee



They've spent the last few weeks knocking on doors and passing out fliers, making phone calls and following his campaign from their televisions.

But even as they joined hundreds of Barack Obama supporters last night in counting down the seconds before his historic acceptance speech, best friends Priscilla Davis and Donna Gray couldn't believe their candidate -- the first black presidential nominee for a major party -- had made it so far.

"I feel so full and excited to be experiencing history," said Ms. Davis, 55, of Homewood. "You just have to pinch yourself. I didn't think this would happen in my lifetime."

All around them at Homewood Coliseum were hundreds of equally thrilled Obama supporters, who watched the Steelers' preseason game on two big screen TVs while they waited for Mr. Obama to take the stage.

They chanted his name during commercial breaks. Some pinned Obama paraphernalia to Steelers jerseys. Others sported T-shirts silk-screened with the candidate's face. Campaigners registered voters and doled out signs for the crowd to wave when Mr. Obama finally took the podium hundreds of miles west, at Denver's Invesco Field.

The Homewood rally was expected to draw at least 1,000 people, organizers said, and was one of some 200 organized parties that Obama supporters were holding in bars, restaurants, homes, college campuses and convention centers across the state.

Organizers said they'll rely on the same grass-roots support to carry the campaign until November.

"Every morning when I wake up, and every night when I go to bed, this is on my mind," said Alaina Dopico, 19, of West Mifflin, of Mr. Obama's acceptance speech. "On more than one occasion I've been moved to tears."

Ms. Dopico, who will vote in her first national election in November, said her anticipation of Mr. Obama's nomination has been building ever since he spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

"At that point, I was hoping he'd run," she said.

Her father, Bill, 59, shared her excitement.

They sat with hundreds of other local supporters at long tables inside the coliseum, where red, white and blue balloons mixed with Steelers black and gold.

Empty chairs started filling and some people simply sat on the floor near the big-screen projection TVs as more supporters continued to trickle in.

They shouted in approval as C-SPAN played snippets of Mr. Obama's past speeches.

When he finally took the stage the crowd rose and erupted in applause.

Donna Gray took in the jubilant scene with a look of complete satisfaction. "This," she said, "is fantastic."

The coliseum crowd broke into thunderous applause at the end of Mr. Obama's 40-minute speech.

"He wasn't just speaking to African-Amercians or women. He was speaking to people of all echelons," said Patrice Cheatham, 41, of Lincoln-Larimer. "It was a speech that covered everything."

"People never ever thought that this would ever happen. We are on the brink of something great," said Jeremiah Thomas, of Churchill. "That was unbelievable. I wish my father was alive to see this."


Sadie Gurman can be reached at sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. First Published August 29, 2008 4:00 AM


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