Election Night – Somewhere Over the Atlantic

MSInteractive's Marquis McNeil spent election night on a transatlantic flight to Europe to conduct research later that week. He learned of the outcome of the election en route and received quite a welcome at his destination. Here is how he described the experience:

was with mixed emotions that I boarded my flight on November 4, from JFK to
Rome, en route to Malta, as I knew the results of the election would be determined
while I was 40,000 feet in the air.  
Once on board I asked the flight attendant to wake me up if she found out
who won. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean I was gently awakened and told, 'All
results are not in, but there is 99.5% certainty that Barack Obama will be the
next president.' Twenty minutes later the pilot made the following announcement, 'To all the U.S. citizens on the flight, you have a new president.' (Long
pause) 'His name is Barack Obama.'  The people
on the plane erupted!  There was applause
for almost a minute accompanied by hooting and hollering.  It was during my connection in Rome where I read
the headline for myself:  (Headline translation: 'And the world changed')

La Repubblica front page

(Source: Newseum.com)

most amazing and memorable part of the news of our next president was how I was
greeted and treated in Malta.  While
personally I was touched deeply by this historical event, the Maltese were also
quite taken by it. For my entire stay in Malta, each time I opened my mouth and
people realized I was an American their normal, friendly demeanor
skyrocketed.  At one point close to 20
people hovered around me saying 'Barack Obama!' while giving me the thumbs up
and patting me on the shoulder.  I felt
that at any minute they were going to pick me up, put me on their shoulders,
and parade me around!  This response to
my nationality was a recurring reaction from all I met.  I felt like I was Barack’s personal emissary,
there to accept congratulations on his behalf, or that I was the person who ran
the race and just won.   It was an
intense experience not only as an American, but as one of the few Black
Americans in that city.  This was
reinforced by one gentleman approaching me with not only the standard 'Barack
Obama!,' but also quoted, 'I have a dream.' 

in hand with the felicitations I received was the concern expressed about our
participation in Iraq, followed by the question regarding when we would be
pulling our troops out.  I told them I
would have to get back to them on that one.

Hilton, where I stayed, was fantastic and sent me the local newspaper
announcing the election results with a note that read, 'Congratulations to your
president.'  They also told me that the
night of the election they left the bar and lounge open until the results were
in, which was around 5:00 am their time. When the results were announced the
atmosphere resembled midnight on New Year’s Eve. Everyone was jumping up and
down and kissing each other.  Also, the
night before I checked out, I let the concierge know I would be leaving in the
morning.  He thanked me for staying and in
very broken English, expressed his hope that I enjoyed my stay, wished me good
luck, and good luck to my president.  He
then shook my hand, offered the now familiar thumbs up, and the last words out
of his mouth were 'Barack Obama.'

I would have loved to experience this historic event in my own country, the
Maltese provided me with a unique, memorable opportunity to feel like 'President McNeil' for a few days and like I was the most important Black
American in Malta.

By the way, Malta is truly a lovely country."


By The Water