The night was quiet at first.
Hillary Clinton supporters gathered to celebrate in the shadow of the White House. But, slowly it became clear how the night would end. Their confusion found its voice.
“We’re witnessing history.”
“I’m going to cry.”
“He doesn’t care about people like us.”
“I just can’t believe it.”
And then, finally, “She lost.”
Though the signs were there hours earlier, it was after midnight by the time realization — if not acceptance — had finally sunk in.
“This is just overwhelming and disappointing,” said Emily Araiza, 19, a student at The George Washington University. “Haven’t we moved forward?”
As the clock struck past two a.m., a different group emerged. Smiling beneath brims of hats emblazoned with Make America Great Again, waves of young men moved about the crowd high-fiving their good fortune. They were celebrating an evening they had not expected either.
Dawn brought drizzly rain, gray skies and disbelief to the District — a city that voted 94 percent for Clinton.
As many across the country began to grapple with what had happened — Donald J. Trump had pulled off an upset, defeating Hillary Clinton to become president-elect of the U.S. — the stunned disbelief of Pennsylvania Avenue crept its way across the rest of Washington.
“Even the earth is crying,” said Lisa Thompson, 57, of D.C.
Anne Hoye, 33, also of the District, said she struggled just getting out of bed.
“I was in the diner stress-eating, and there’s people crying watching Hillary’s concession speech,” she said. “Tears rolling down their faces at the counter of the diner eating breakfast.”
Silence blanketed much of the city.
Amma Addo, 35, originally from Ghana, voted for the first time Tuesday and said it felt like the city was in mourning.
“I’ve never seen it this dead,” she said. “Usually people would have been talking about it, but today people are avoiding eye contact.”
Eyes — some hidden behind sunglasses despite the overcast skies — remained glued to cell phone screens, searching for answers.
Kris Cook, 24, at work in Insomnia Cookies in Adams Morgan, said Washingtonians could not believe the results.
“I know that is it hard to see outside the bubble when you are right in the middle of it,” he said. “But this is a rude awakening for people around here.”
The morning’s shocked silence dissolved as the clouds lifted. The city, long-accustomed to a changing of the guard, fell back into its daily rhythm under newly sunny skies.
People scuttled out of the office for quick a cup of coffee and to digest the events of the past 24 hours. A few shared a cautious optimism about what was to come.
Outside the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station, a voice filled with hope hung in the air.
God shed god’s grace on thee
And crown thy good with sisterhood
From sea to shining sea!”
Roxanne Jarrett, a part-time singer and single parent from Montgomery Village, Maryland, said though she has always added “sisterhood” to her rendition of “America the Beautiful,” the lyric felt especially poignant today.
“We need to recognize each other and how women might be feeling today,” she said.
She hoped both women and men would hear her songs and know they are not alone. She used the same strategy with her daughter earlier in the morning.
“She was despondent when she woke up,” Jarrett said. “I did everything I could to turn the mood of the house around. She told me, ‘Mom, thank you for being happy’.”
“Some kids look at Trump as a big scary monster, but he’s just a man, and we’re still a country,” Jarrett said.
A cloud obscured the sun, but she continued her hopeful work.
“This is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl.”
The rain held off, for the moment.