By NOAH BUHAYAR

We heard the car horns first. It was a layered timbre, as hundreds of drivers leaned into their steering wheels, punching out staccato rhythms, filling the night air.

Then the whoops: “Obamaaaaa!”

The president-elect had just delivered his victory speech to thousands of supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park and, now, San Franciscans were out on the streets to sing the news and dance their candidate’s victory.

But inside the Chronicle newsroom, the wheels of election coverage were still turning. The cheers reverberated against the glass second-floor windows, where, along with a few dozen stringers, I was reporting county-level election results to run in the paper the next day.

“Alameda-Contra Costa Water Sanitation District?” my partner asked.

“Eight precincts reporting,” I said, reading the candidate’s names and vote tally.

The juxtaposition of this interchange with the euphoria outside was maddening. Who cared right then about the next manager of the East Bay sewer system? Or the new BART director? Or the short-term member of the Park and Rec board?

My cell phone started to light up with text messages from friends and family in other parts of the country: Columbus, Ohio, Boulder, Colo., Portland, Ore.

“What what?!?,” read one from a close friend, now living in New York City.

I tried to stay focused on the task, but it wasn’t working. This was not an objective moment.

At break, a group of us ran outside, hoping to catch a bit of this story.

Everyone seemed headed for Union Square, so we followed.

All down Market Street, cars rolled by with people leaning out windows, waving flags, giving fist pumps, honking horns. On Powell Street, a Latino shouted and gave a twirl.

The crowd had gathered outside the Westin St. Francis, blocking off traffic. A zealous Obama supporter climbed into an old-style trolley car and started ringing the bell on tempo with the crowd’s chants: “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!” At one point, the crowd switched to “Sí, se puede!” echoing the reprise, “Yes, we can!” in the victory speech earlier that night.

This was news in its most primal form, I thought. It was a story stripped down to one word, a headline, a name—and all the hope attached to it.