The rally at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center—where Clinton supporters gathered beneath a glass ceiling heavy with symbolism—was split into two dramatically different halves.
The first half, early in the evening, was an expectant celebration, premature but confident. Clinton’s supporters had come in droves to see her elected the first woman president of the United States.
When asked why, they launched into a list of Clinton’s “greatest hits”—her 1995 speech on women’s rights in Beijing, her response in New York City to the 9/11 terror attacks, her service in the presidential administration of former rival Barack Obama.
They wore ‘Madam President’ T-shirts and ‘Love Trumps Hate’ buttons and homemade jackets emblazoned with what has become a feminist rallying cry: “Nasty Women Vote.” They spoke with confidence about a coming Clinton victory in tones that suggested it would be deeply personal for them.
“I’m here because I just really wanted to see her follow her dream, which will be like me following my dream,” said 66-year-old Victoria Beasley, who came to the rally with her daughter, Livia.
“She’s the right person to be in the seat of the Oval Office,” said Livia Beasley, 40, who is expecting a son in April. “I really need for my child to be raised in a stable country.”
But as the night progressed and the election results rolled in, the mood turned somber.
The second half of the rally, dramatically more subdued, became a scene of shock and disbelief, as state after state went to Trump. Clinton supporters hung their heads, embraced one another, pondered alternative endings and wondered aloud, "Is it over?"
The convention center’s background music—a playlist reflecting the musical star power Clinton had recently brought onto the campaign trail to encourage voter turnout—played on in apparent ignorance. Fight and Roar and Rise, it said, though the crowd, overwhelmingly, did not.
“Twelve hours ago, things felt so different,” said Dana Massarsky, 36, leaving the rally after Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta announced she would wait another day to speak.
It was another surprising turn in a presidential race that had repeatedly broken with precedent.
“We can wait a little longer, can’t we?” Podesta said. “We will be back. We have more to say. Let’s get those votes counted.”
The announcement, which prolonged the now-inevitable, did little to lift spirits.
“I’m sort of speechless,” said 34-year-old Rhead Beddoe, of Brooklyn, who has spent every weekend since September volunteering for Clinton in Pennsylvania, knocking on doors in Philadelphia suburbs. “I’ve never been so confident about an election.”
She choked up, acknowledging that Clinton had lost, despite the candidate’s absent concession speech.
“I think it’s going to be really hard for America,” she said. “This is a really tragic, unfortunate, terrible disaster.”
Others in the crowd voiced concern for specific Americans, including immigrants and members of the LGBT community.
“At a very base level, it’s terrifying to me,” said Bryan Ball, 30, adding that he worried Trump would roll back rights recently obtained for LGBT Americans. “It’s a very personal fear, as a gay American.”
Still, some said they were happy to be where they were, at the rally just over two miles away from Trump’s.
“I feel like I’m in the right place with the right people,” said Margaret Biedel, adding that she felt “dumbfounded and overwhelmed.”
“In the beginning, it was so exciting,” she said, “and now, actually, I’m glad I’m here because I couldn’t bear to do this in the living room of my home.”