From bars to airplanes, the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing prompts tears, jeers and personal revelations

We watched in bars, at schools and on airplanes. We huddled around flat-screen TVs, listened to car radios a...

Posted: Sep 28, 2018 6:59 AM
Updated: Sep 28, 2018 6:59 AM

We watched in bars, at schools and on airplanes. We huddled around flat-screen TVs, listened to car radios and peered at cellphones.

Across the country, millions of Americans sat riveted Thursday as Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh gave dramatic testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

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Some viewers fought back tears, Others grew angry. The future of the Supreme Court, and of our country, seemed to hang in the balance as we paused to watch history unfold live on Capitol Hill.

We watched in bars ...

In Atlanta, about 15 people watched the proceedings at Manuel's Tavern, a local institution where portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy hang over the bar.

The group heckled one of the senators but fell into total silence as Ford began her testimony. A woman sitting at the end of the bar appeared to be distraught as she listened to Ford speak.

Another woman said Ford seemed credible.

"It's very painful to hear her," said Becca Sherrill, who works in the tech industry in Atlanta. "When she really has to say again that he put his hand over her mouth and how frightened she was ... it's hard to put that out of your mind."

The attacks on Ford from President Trump and others upset Sherrill.

"This is what women go through," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "This is not what every woman goes through, but it is what women have to deal with. I admire her courage so much."

Helen Schroder, a longtime political consultant, watched the hearing from a wood-paneled booth and mused about the rise of the #MeToo movement.

"I think it just hits home," she said, "with everything that's gone on in the last year or so, from Bill Cosby to all the other people."

... and in restaurants over lunch

Shaw's Tavern in Washington opened early Thursday so diners could watch the hearing.

At the bar, patrons watched as they ate lunch, glued to the screens.

Jamar Guy, 35, a banker in Washington, said he had the day off and came because he needed to find somewhere to see the hearing. He wanted to hear what Ford had to say.

"I'm a survivor," said Guy, who said he was sexually abused as a child, "so I'm more inclined to believe Dr. Ford. .. I didn't talk about it until like 20 years later. It's not unrealistic for someone to not talk about it for decades. I get it. I get why you don't talk about it. I get why you wait years to come forward."

Ellen Drumm, 59, was visiting her daughter in Washington from Sarasota, Florida. They came to Shaw's to watch the hearing together.

"I really have never known anyone that's been sexually assaulted. I'm a Democrat. I came here with an open mind," Drumm said. "I want to believe her. I want to believe him. I just want to weigh both sides before I make a decision."

Drumm said she remembers watching Anita Hill testify.

"Being a young woman, that was huge then. It was a lot longer than one day. She just was pummeled with questions. It was totally different then. The only thing that hasn't changed are the people that are questioning the victim," she said. "All older, white men."

We watched on Capitol Hill ...

Valeria Georgescu was fuming as she watched the hearing at Hawk 'n' Dove on Washington's Capitol Hill, where two big-screen TVs behind the bar were tuned to CNN and two to Fox News.

"They're judging him, and I just think it's really unfair," she said. "It's a witch hunt."

And for Georgescu, a personal trainer, it's personal. She said she was sexually assaulted in Washington decades ago.

"That's why I'm so passionate," she said.

"You don't just talk about it 36 years later. You talk about it all the time. ... You'll remember his socks. You'll remember everything about it. ... it's like giving birth. It doesn't go away. I still remember how it felt."

Senators, she said, didn't ask Ford enough questions to corroborate her story.

Georgescu also didn't buy Ford's demeanor during the hearing.

"She laughed and smiled the entire time. She only cried when they said she was doing the right thing," Georgescu said. "If this really happened to you and it was serious, you wouldn't laugh at all."

Ford, she said, is being manipulated by people who are trying to gain political points.

As Kavanaugh appeared on screen and began his testimony, Georgescu cheered.

"This confirmation process has become a national disgrace," Kavanaugh said.

"Yes! Yes!" Georgescu shouted.

In the corner of the screen, she spotted Kavanaugh's wife crying. The image spoke to her, even though Kavanaugh's wife didn't utter a word.

"She's saying my husband's telling you the truth. That's empowering right there."

With her cell phone, Georgescu snapped a photo of the screen. It was a moment she wanted to remember.

And in hospitals

Leanna Elrod tweeted this photo of her father watching the hearing while getting chemotherapy Thursday for renal cancer at an Atlanta hospital.

Elrod, who told CNN that her dad did not want to be identified, sat nearby, watching the proceedings on her laptop.

We watched on airplanes ...

Zette Emmons shared a photo of her view aboard a JetBlue flight 415 from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to San Francisco.

Every passenger around her was watching the hearing.

On another flight Thursday morning, from JFK to Salt Lake City, New York Times columnist Ron Lieber said passengers seated around him were reacting emotionally to Ford's testimony.

"JFK-SLC. 16A: Crying. 14B: Crying. 17C: Weeping," he said on Twitter.

... and we listened on the go

Charlie Weaver had his radio tuned to the hearing as he drove his Ford Taurus around Washington Thursday. As Ford spoke, he turned up the volume.

"Everyone who has a TV is watching this," the 64-year-old Lyft driver said. "This is going to change some laws."

"Do you believe that?" Weaver asked a passenger as Ford talked about the way traumatic events are seared in your mind.

Weaver said he knows exactly what she's talking about. He says he still has vivid memories of watching his father abuse his mother.

"I was 6 years old. Now I'm 64 years old and I still remember. So I understand what she's saying," he said. "One man can affect a whole family."

We watched at school -- especially law school

In the student lounge at Cardozo School of Law in New York, about 60 people watched the hearing on a projection screen. Some had their hands over their mouths. Others were tearful.

Sam, a student at the law school who declined to give her last name, teared up talking about Ford's opening statement.

"I want this to matter," she said. "I also was assaulted and I can't imagine putting your trauma out there."

Another Cardozo student, who gave his name only as Ryan, thinks Ford seems like a credible witness but that the FBI should've done an investigation.

"We need to maintain innocent until proven guilty. Committee Republicans are actually being pretty fair. They are letting her speak," he said while glancing at the projector screen. "It's interesting. It's the next 40 years of our country."

Across the city at Fordham University's School of Law, some two dozen students sat watching Ford's testimony on C-SPAN in a darkened conference room off the school's library.

During a break in the testimony, Rebecca Rubin, 25, a second-year law student and member of the group, told CNN she was impressed by Ford.

"I can't imagine having that kind of conversation in public, much less on a nationally televised platform," Rubin said. "It definitely feels like a big moment in our country."

Rubin's classmate and co-organizer Paige Mankin, 23, agreed.

"There's an understanding of how high the stakes are," Mankin said. "This is a very interesting time to be in law school."

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