CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)– “Welcome to Election Night at Grant Park,” the recorded voice intoned from a loudspeaker system, again and again and again.
“We talked to the boys about safety,” said Catherine Dunn, 36.
“They know not to walk away from us, and to look for a policeman if there’s any trouble," said her husband, Dale Dunn, 38.
They had come downtown to Chicago from suburban Schaumburg tonight, bringing with them their sons: Liam, 5, and Elliot, 4. They had heard all the stories about the huge crowds that are expected– people with tickets, people without tickets– and they are among the latter. But they felt they had to be here tonight.
“We want the boys, some day, to be able to say that they were here," Catherine Dunn said.
She said she will feel that way even if Barack Obama does not win the presidency: “There’s never been a night like this in Chicago,” she said. “It’s going to be an unforgettable experience, no matter what."
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Dale Dunn said. “I want us to be able to talk about this night with our sons when they get older.”
The history of the piece of land to where they were heading is not pristine: this is where the riots at the Democratic National Convention of 1968 unfolded and ended up defining another presidential election season, and where street crime marred the area surrounding the Taste of Chicago festival during the summer just past. Grant Park, historically, has not been a place where one has automatically been able to count on placid and unsullied times.
But the Dunn family believes that nothing that has gone on here before will equal, in the city’s collective memory, what will happen tonight should Obama become president-elect.
“We won’t stay here all night, because the boys have their bedtime," Catherine Dunn said. “But we have to be in the middle of this, if just for a little while." They moved toward the lawn, hoping to be allowed to find a place.