NEW YORK ― They came to celebrate the election of the first female president, gathering appropriately in a massive room with a clear glass ceiling. They left the Jacob Javits Center here in Donald Trump’s hometown stunned and in tears.
Mothers tightly clutched their little girls’ hands. Many ignored reporters as they scurried out, fists clenched, heads down, their hopes to make history dashed in the cruelest of ways. Clinton staffers walked around staring at their shoes as CNN played to an increasingly empty hall under that still-unbroken ceiling.
Almost everyone leaving held the small American flag they were handed out earlier in the evening, rolled up tightly in their hands.
It was supposed to be a victory party for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night. Instead, as one supporter remarked casually to a friend, “It feels like a morgue.”
Outside the convention center, where just hours earlier an excited throng of supporters had gathered at an organized “block party,” it was dead silent. Eerily so.
On the surrounding streets, most supporters had their headphones in, their heads down.
One man was still desperately trying to sell T-shirts that said “First Female President.” No one was buying. “It’s over!” someone yelled at the seller, walking by.
People crowded around windows, looking into bars from the sidewalk to see election results come in.
One woman walked by muttering “fuck” to herself.
A woman had come so close. By midnight, it looked increasingly like she was going to lose the race for the highest office in the land to a man who bragged of sexually assaulting women, who proposed a ban on an entire religion, who has never held political office.
Clinton looked poised to lose to a man whom most of her supporters here tonight said they feared. They despaired for the country.
“I brought my 12-year-old daughter here to witness history,” Sarah Alexander said, walking out of the Javits Center at the Clinton event looking stunned. “Not sure that’s going to happen.” Her daughter Natalie was in tears.
They came up to New York from Washington, D.C., where Alexander had been working on the Clinton campaign for the past 14 months. “We’re in total shock,” Alexander said, as her daughter listened with big, sad wet eyes. Alexander said their excitement tanked after Natalie looked at her phone and saw reports from The New York Times projecting Trump to win. Alexander was less upset that a woman had lost her shot at breaking the glass ceiling, and more disgusted that Americans would elect Trump.
“Everything he stands for is something I disagree with,” she said.
An older couple sporting matching Clinton T-shirts looked stunned. “I thought she’d win,” said Carole Levine, who was heading back home to the Upper West Side with her husband. “But there’s a lot of resentment in this country. ... It’s a nightmare.”
Two young women were crying inside the Javits Center; they’d been tearing up off and on throughout night. Both said they felt emotional while voting this morning.
A few celebrities filtered out along with the sad throng of supporters.
Richard Schiff, who played Toby on “The West Wing,” had a tough time stringing his thoughts together.
“I don’t know how polling can be this wrong,” he said. “I don’t understand it. ... The country scares me right now.”
“It’s a nightmare,” actor Melanie Griffith, best known for her leading role in the 1980s classic “Working Girl.” She said she was less upset that Clinton seemed to be behind and more upset that the country seemed poised to elect Donald Trump. “Hillary is fucking awesome,” she said. “I’m upset because Trump will take us to World War 3.” She said the cons with Clinton were minor compared to the cons Trump brings to the table. “People are missing the big picture.”