It was a moment of catharsis for Durham residents, an impulsive outpouring of hope and joy and relief.
Gathered at the intersection of West Main Street and Corcoran Street, waving American flags and Biden-Harris signs, they did what people do after the conclusion of a harrowing election whose result meant the end of a divisive presidency: They celebrated.
They jumped up and down and sang and chanted and banged on pots and pans and a tambourine. They wore Black Lives Matter shirts and Pride flags and cardboard masks with President-Elect Joe Biden’s face. They screamed, laughed, danced and hugged each other, accompanied by a cacophony of honking as cars drove past, filled with people who stuck their torsos out the car windows and through the sunroofs.
Cars clogged the roadways downtown throughout the day on Saturday.
At one point, a man with a sousaphone played “When The Saints Go Marching In,” as people danced around him.
Another man, wearing a Black Lives Matter mask, looked around with his arms outstretched.
“This is America,” he said.
Sara Reynolds, 33, is the salon manager of Rock’s Bar and Hair Shop, one of the shops near the celebration. Before the race was called, she had been refreshing the computer “every five seconds,” Reynolds said.
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“It’s a relief,” she said. “I’m just kind of overwhelmed.”
She said she hopes that Biden can reverse President Donald Trump’s policies on climate change. She also said she wants the next president to unify the country. Many of her family members are Trump supporters, she said, and dialogue with them is “nonexistent.”
“The only time I have contact with them is through social media, and that place is a battleground,” Reynolds said.
Tray Batson, 53, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the next four years.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said. “We had a lot of problems before [Trump] was elected, and the election of [Trump] put us back behind the eight ball.”
A person waves a scarf atop a car driving by CCB Plaza on Saturday.
Batson said he hopes Biden implements policies that help combat climate change and inequality in the country.
“Every little step counts, so we’ll keep chopping wood,” he said.
Curtis Brooks, 53, said he liked Trump as a real estate businessman but not as a president.
“I’m glad he’s out,” Brooks said. “It’s been a long four years.”
History has also been made in Kamala Harris, the first woman, Black person and person of Indian descent elected vice president.
“I think the White House is run better with a woman in there,” Brooks said. “Your momma—she takes good care of you, right? There you go.”
Kevin Rodriguez, 42, was watching football with his brother when he heard all the honking.
The next four years aren’t going to be easy, he said.
Patrons of the Patio at the Unscripted Hotel in Durham watch the celebration down below in CCB Plaza.
“There’s a lot of divisiveness that’s going to make policy really tough to move,” Rodriguez said. “I’m hoping that Biden’s message and his use of the office brings people together more than Trump chose to divide us, but I guess we’ll see.”
Rodriguez doesn’t remember seeing a post-election reaction as raucous as this one, even when former president Barack Obama won in 2012.
“It’s not been a great year for a lot of people,” he said. “There’s finally something to celebrate.”
See more photos from Saturday's celebration: