University of Pittsburgh

commons room

A Gathering Moment

Written by Laura Powers

Students hustle in from the cold, searching for seats close to the televisions. They squeeze around tables, pile on couches, lean on pool tables, and sit on the floor at Nordy’s Place, a newly renovated lounge in the William Pitt Union, affectionately named by students in tribute to Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg.

Voices rise above the sound of the televisions. Students munch on chicken wings, pretzels, and chips. Anticipation builds. Soon, history will be made.

“Look at how many people are there,” says a guy standing near one of the flat-screen TVs, as he views a sea of people gathering in Washington, D.C. All around him, everyone at Nordy’s Place is part of the experience, too. The first African American U.S. president is about to be sworn into office.

One of the students who arrived early has a prime spot near a flat-screen by the juice bar. Brittany Moreland, a Pitt sophomore majoring in economics, voted for the first time in the November 2008 election. She came to Nordy’s Place wanting to be surrounded by others also excited to see history in the making.

As the presidential oath begins, students in the lounge fall silent. Moreland stares at the screen, watching intently. In grade school, she fantasized about becoming the first female, Black president. Seeing Obama, she thinks of her 9-year-old cousin, her 5-year-old brother, and herself. Now, she knows it’s true—any of their aspirations are possible.

When President Barack Obama shakes the hand of Chief Justice John Roberts after officially being sworn in, the lounge erupts into applause. Moreland smiles, others wipe away tears. The youthful citizens in Nordy’s Place join millions of others across the nation—watching, with expectation, as a new chapter in history opens at the White House.