We’ve talked before about how crises—of the national or smaller-scale variety—suddenly turn strangers into friends. I’ve had fewer chances to witness how celebrations have the same effect. The closest I’ve come to seeing streets of celebration turn into friendship breeding grounds was when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year, or when the Cubs almost (almost!) made a run my senior year of college.
The spontaneous festivities that broke out in front of the White House (pictured above) and Ground Zero last night seemed, from what I could tell from my living room, to be those celebrations times a thousand. Maybe not that many more people, but with emotions certainly that much more intense.
The inevitable result of this will be bursts of friendship between strangers. Not lifelong friendships, necessarily, but those little moments of shared joy and comaradarie. Likely, as I write this, two strangers in Washington D.C. are sharing a high five. Or some seemingly unrelated New Yorkers are singing the national anthem together, side by side.
Watching the crowds gather on the news, I was moved at the sudden bonding of Americans. “There’s a spontaneous outpouring of emotion,” one New Yorker told CNN. “It’s nice to come down here and feel a sense of community.” At 2 am EST today, the crowd was still growing with no sign of letting up.
Why is it that, when world-changing news breaks, then everyone is best friends. But on a normal day it’s so hard? Certainly, the President’s news was worth celebrating. But what is it about these moments that suddenly compels people to forget their usual judgments and wariness of others, and instead embrace their fellow Americans?