Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

Ali DeFazio is a junior politics major.

As polls closed and Trump’s face flashed across projection screens, you could feel hundreds of stomachs sink to the floor. My friends and I picked a restaurant close to the White House to watch the results so we’d be some of the first people there to celebrate. How wrong we were. I ended up leaving before the election was even called.

Walking back to my apartment was surreal. The streets were dead, and the only movement were people pacing with their phones and smoking cigarettes. Everyone had a similar glazed-over expression.

When I finally reached my dorm, I ran into my friend in the lobby. I asked him if they had announced who had won. Without answering my question, he looked me in the eyes and muttered, “Ali… I’m undocumented.” I had no idea. This urgency in politics was only supposed to happen in campaign ads. Yet here it was in front of me — someone personally and immediately affected by the man who will hold office.

I had to be up early for work and a White House tour USF had planned later that day, but I stayed up to watch the results come in. Around 3 a.m., Wolf Blitzer’s voice came on to announce that Clinton had called Trump to concede. This was the point where I turned the TV off.

It was at work when the results of the election really sunk in. I’m lucky to be surrounded by some sharp, driven women. But today, their eyes were red and puffy. They looked stunned. My supervisors hugged me when I came in and told me “I’m so sorry, Ali.”

I scrambled to find a newspaper on the way to my White House tour. It was impossible to ignore people’s attitudes. No one made eye contact. If you did, it was returned with a nod and pursed lips. I finally found a copy of the Washington Post with the headline “Trump Triumphs.” I was going to need it for the tour. I had a picture planned out in my head, a picture that hopefully could capture an ounce of the deluge my classmates and I felt.

No one talked about the election during the White House tour. In fact, no one talked at all.  At the end of the tour, an older woman — black and in her sixties — came up to us. “I appreciate that sentiment, ladies… I just don’t know anymore… I just don’t know.” We talked a bit more and I replied, “America needs a group hug right now.” That’s when she pulled us all in for a hug. The people walking by smiled at us, and patted us on the back.

To this day, D.C. is still shell shocked. If I’ve noticed anything, it’s been the acts of kindness like the woman in the White House. They say democracy gives a voice to the voiceless. The voiceless spoke in this election. We need to be kind and listen to them.

Photo Courtesy of Ali DeFazio

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