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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A witness to history

Everyone has those moments in their lives-the ones you tell your children and grandchildren about. They always start off the same, and my story is no different.

I will never forget where I was when health care reform finally passed and became law.

I had the opportunity to witness history Sunday night when I was invited to be in the gallery at the House of Representatives for the historic vote. I arrived at the House at 12:30 pm, after walking through throngs of protestors and supporters, and  I settled into my seat in the gallery for what I knew was going to be an historic day. The first few hours were marked with tension in the room as each side gave passionate speeches in succession, and a few rowdy opponents were removed from the gallery for yelling down at Congress members. I got bored with the same tired attacks from members opposing reform, so I switched my focus to Speaker Pelosi and her Whips. Whenever I'd see her or her Whips having positive conversations with other House members, I took it as a good sign.

After six hours of speeches, delays, and parliamentary tactics, the real debate got underway and the gallery filled up with people. One by one, committees and their members spoke about the bill, and I knew that each speech was one speech closer to the vote. As Europe's famous rock ballad "Final Countdown" kept playing in my head, Speaker Pelosi gave the last, impassioned argument for the passage of this reform.

It was time for vote.

Even though for the past 5 years I have been obsessed with the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 from the TV show LOST, 216 was the only number in the world that mattered to me then. In the first few minutes of the 15-minute vote, the yea votes broke the one hundred mark, and then for the next 10 minutes, it seemed as if the votes were just trickling in. Eventually we got to 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215... then it paused. It would not turn over. Members were chanting, "One more vote, one more vote!" Then it happened... 216!

The House and much of the gallery burst into applause and celebration. Every cliché sports reference that one could think would apply to the euphoria in the House at that moment.

The journey was finally over.

As I walked out of the House, protestors and supporters were still in full battle mode, but I could barely hear them. I just witnessed history-their shouts and jeers outside paled in comparison to what had just happened inside.