The moment they heard it was over

Ali Goss, 25, left, and Liz Oakley, 26, celebrate Joe Biden's presidential victory Saturday.
Ali Goss, 25, left, and Liz Oakley, 26, celebrated Joe Biden’s presidential victory Saturday outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Nations, like years, like lives, have seasons.

One of those seasons ended Saturday morning at around 11:25 a.m. Eastern time. That’s when everyone heard.


Derek Harper, 46, in Ardmore, Pa., was preparing the house for his daughter’s 10th birthday party when his phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a push alert from the Associated Press:

Joe Biden defeats President Trump to become the 46th president of the United States.

The Democrats had defeated Trump, and they had done it by winning Pennsylvania.


Harper got a bottle of framboise out of the fridge for his wife, Bérénice, who was upstairs. There was a brass dinner bell on the wall, typically used for letting everyone know when dinner was ready. Harper rang it.

Outside, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Harper could hear cars honking and drums in the distance. The news in Pennsylvania had already traveled much farther than that.


Kim Carlin, 54, had been so glued to election news that she started wearing an eye mask at night — so she could leave the TV on while she was sleeping. Just in case.

But after four days with no winner, Carlin was going stir-crazy, and she took a walk with her husband on the the bridge over the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie and Highland, N.Y. That’s when it happened.

Full coverage of Joe Biden’s election as 46th president of the United States of America


Carlin felt it before she learned it. A vibe. Something about the way the other people walking on the bridge were all suddenly checking their phones.

Oh my God, she thought, this is it. She pulled her phone out, saw the news, then video-called a friend in New York and screamed.

A man near her was showing his phone to his son, who looked about 4 years old. “We won,” the man said. “We won.”


So many Americans’ instincts were to head outside, to seek togetherness in an era of isolation, quarantine and division, and use noise as a bridge. Ryan Musser, 33, walked out of his apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Washington, D.C., with an accordion he’d gotten in Mexico.

He doesn’t know how to play. He just started pumping and hitting the keys and spraying notes chaotically into his neighborhood, where one of his neighbors came out with a metal pot and started banging.


It had been a long four years in the dark for liberals like Musser, who had been repeatedly frustrated and angered by a divisive president. Now he could hear fireworks.


Katie Neher, 29, ran out of her apartment in Missoula, Mont., when she got the same alert and went to the river park along the Clark Fork River. It’s a quiet patch of native plants and dry grasses by the river.

But nobody was outside celebrating there. Republicans had drubbed the Democrats in the down-ballot races in her state, where she was concerned by the rise of right-wing militias.

Alongside the river, alone, Neher decided to shout as loud as she could.



In San Diego, Darcy Murphine, 61, had just closed her windows against the rain when she saw the news on Twitter.


The last four years had shaken her faith in democracy. Now it was over.

After she stopped crying, Murphine went outside and placed the American flag on her porch.


Martha Estrada, 42, had not been feeling well lately. Coronavirus cases were exploding again across the U.S., and she was driving to the department of health in Las Cruces, N.M., to get tested when she heard news of Biden’s victory on NPR.

In that exact moment, like many Americans, Estrada’s first reaction was to check social media and call family. These four years had been divisive for many communities and many families, including hers, which was Mexican American, Catholic and antiabortion.

Joe Biden wins election and calls for national unity as President Trump continues to vow to fight the results.

“Hey papa, they just called it,” she told her dad after pulling over in the parking lot of an eyebrow-threading business.


“When?” He was not watching the news.


The news ended up causing Estrada to miss her COVID-19 test. She would have to get tested later. But she was already feeling better.


In the far northwest side of Chicago, one of the only wards in the city to go for Trump, Annie Tully’s 12-year-old daughter gave her the news. The pair started jumping up and down, hooting and hollering.

The high school English teacher wished her neighbors were as excited as she was. But she didn’t hear anything. She started texting her friends to feel that sense of connection. One of Tully’s sisters texted that she was buying Kamala Harris T-shirts for all six of her nieces.

It was a beautiful day, and as for many other liberals, the news seemed better absorbed outside.

The pair went outside to share sweets from the appropriately named Joe’s Donuts. The sun streaked through the trees as they streamed the news on a laptop and listened to news anchors talk about when they would learn more about the coming Biden administration:


“In the coming days, we certainly will, as he begins to assume his role as president-elect to be the 46th president of the United States...”