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One year ago on November 4, 2016 I met Hillary Clinton. On November 8th—before the election was called for her opponent—I wrote this:

November 4, 2016. Detroit, Michigan.

Five days before the 2016 election. The O.G. H.B.I.C, HRC, was holding a Get Out the Vote Rally in the Dirty D. Naturally, I had to go.

As an employee of General Motors, my friend Lauren basically owns Detroit, so we went early to eat, explore, and eat some more.

After a mid-afternoon Wahlburgers run—where I I ate a cheeseburger, cheesy tots, and onion rings while surrounded by movie posters of Mark Wahlberg—we arrived at the venue. The line to get into the rally wrapped around a full city block. I won’t say I was crying seeing all the support for our girl, Hillz, but I won’t say I wasn’t crying.

We found our place at the end of the line and immediately met our new best friend, Deb, a 50-something hairstylist who came by herself. You go, Deb. She explained that her husband is a Trump supporter, so she flew solo because she is an independent woman who don’t need no man. She asked us how to go live on Facebook, helping to quickly establish our eternal kinship.


There’s something special about campaign rallies this late in the cycle. They allow veritable strangers to share some of their most personal details because of some underlying belief in a cause. We chatted with Deb until we made it inside the building, at around 4:30 P.M., when we parted ways.

Lauren and I found a spot surprisingly close to the stage, particularly given how late we made it into the building. Some of the political “undercards” were already on stage speaking on Hillary’s behalf and hyping up the crowd. I tested out panoramas and other pictures, so I wouldn’t mess up when it mattered most.

Our girl finally came out on stage to thunderous applause, wearing a blue and white power suit, much like the one she wore for the second debate. Her hair was #goals, as always. She thanked the speakers before her and welcomed the crowd. I was already shaking, so despite all my rehearsing, my panos didn’t turn out well.

Our Lady of Rodham wrapped up and walked off stage to the front of the crowd, over to the VIP guests. But as Hillary made her rounds, we made moves.

We will not be denied! We flocked to her like seagulls who just spotted abandoned french fries, holding our phones high trying to get any picture we could.

Then we hit a metal fence—a Trumpian metaphor if I’ve ever seen one. But despite the hundreds of Secret Service agents and fence around us, we climbed over and made it closer to Our Lady. Victorious, we stood 3 feet from HRC. By now, I was basically convulsing as if possessed. As a garbage millennial, I tried to take selfies with Hillary in the background, and I got a few decent ones considering how emotionally unstable I felt.

HRC now stood in front of me. I claimed to be a reporter from the Michigan Daily (not true) and handed her my phone. She did not reply, but confidently took my phone and passed it along to one of her handlers, who took the now infamous picture. I smiled on the outside, but my insides melted.

The handler returned my phone and I turned to Lauren with crazed eyes, looking like the harmless fangirl psychopath I truly am. I was so full of hope and expectation. At the time, I thought I had just taken a photo with the next president.

But you know how the story goes. On November 8th, Hillary Clinton lost the election.

What if I had been right? If Hillary Clinton had become the 45th President of the United States?

It’s hard to deal with what ifs, but this I know to be true:

I wouldn’t have written this piece about my experience with sexual assault.

I wouldn’t have began to deal with what had plagued me since I was 16.

I wouldn’t have attended the Women’s March on Washington.

I wouldn’t be blocked from my House of Representatives member’s local phone line.

I wouldn’t have started paying attention. I wouldn’t have found my voice and started talking about the difficult but important issues.

Yes, every day of the past year has been hard. The past is still haunting and it feels like it keeps getting worse.

But good is happening, too.

People, including myself, are more motivated than ever to get involved and speak up for what they believe in. And on Tuesday, people in New Jersey and Virginia and across the country came to the polls to reject Trumpism.

So yes, I will keep writing about food. But I will also keep writing for the changes I want to see in the world. Now is not the time to slow down or let ourselves get tired.

While I wish the motivation for action was different, I know that it has pushed so many of us to go above and beyond for the things we care about.

What if this new wave of activists does not stop? What if we are the ones who change the world? And what if we do it faster than we ever dreamed possible?

Shannon Vail

The number one authority on giant squids and can eat 6-14 boxes of pasta a day according to a recent Twitter poll.

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