It was around 10:25 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5 when the New England Patriots pulled off a miraculous comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI. Fireworks signaled the start of the festivities and, by 10:30 p.m., Main Street was crowded with thousands of students celebrating this unexpected victory.
“No description can match how I feel right now,” senior marketing and business analytics major Troy Gilfix said. “You can’t beat it, you can’t beat that feeling.”
“It’s hard to explain [how I feel],” senior environmental conservation and sustainability major Keegan Smith said. “I thought that we were [going to] lose. A hundred percent that we were [going to] lose. But for this to be our senior year and to win is just a capstone. In this moment in time, with all the politics involved, it’s good to unite the entire region, and that’s what we see here today.”
“There were a lot of students who crowded to the streets,” Student Body President Jonathan Dean said. “I’m getting reports in of at least several thousand [students].”
Police were brought in from neighboring districts to maintain security. Prior to the win, the police were predicting a busy but safe night regardless of the results.
“I guess the expectation for tonight is if they win, we usually see a happy crowd. I would guess about 2,000 people,” Detective Sgt. Jack Dalton said before the game ended. “If they lose, it’s probably [going to] be a pretty somber crowd.”
“The goal is to make sure everyone gets home safely and everyone is able to have fun and enjoy the moment,” Dalton added. “We’re not looking to ruin the moment, we’re just here to make sure that it’s safe.”
Durham Town Counselor Al Howland came to the celebrations out of curiosity.
“I actually wanted to see what it was like in a big event, and see how the police responded. Actually, we came after they [the police] did their briefing at about 8:30 [p.m.],” Howland said. “I think they’ve been really good. The idea is to try to keep students safe, and it’s not so much about arresting people than keeping people safe.”
Though the majority of students celebrated respectfully and responsibly, some were seen throwing bottles and climbing rooftops, flagpoles and trees. By the time the celebrations started to clear out around 11:07 p.m., some property damage had been reported.
“There was definitely some reports of damage to some cars and some trees in the area,” Dean said. One of the cars that Dean alluded to was a Kia Rio LX that was parked in front of Hayden Sports at 44 Main Street. The vehicle had its rearview window smashed in and top dented during the celebrations.
“Whatever happened with that is definitely not Wildcat behavior and it’s not what we condone,” Dean said. “But overall, I think the majority of students were able to celebrate a really exciting win responsibly and respectfully like the administration asked.”