Silence on Wall Street. Tears in a retirement home. The country watches as Ford tells her story.
LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- "It looks like she's crying," Hilda Darkins said, as several retirees around her dabbed their own eyes. "Who can blame her?"
At the Mid-County Senior Center in Lake Worth, Florida, two dozen people sat around circular tables, facing the television. They watched Christine Blasey Ford, who was watching in silence as Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., read lengthy opening statements.
Then Ford herself began to speak.
"She looks scared, and she looks nervous. But I think she's telling the truth," said Myrtle Facey, 78, a retired cashier. "She may have waited a long time to talk about it, but this is something that will never leave you, no matter what happens. You always remember it. You may not think of it every day, but it will always be with you, just like learning the ABCs. You never forget."
On Thursday morning, Ford's testimony - about an alleged sexual assault in the early 1980s by Brett M. Kavanaugh, now a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court - transfixed Americans in coffee shops, subway cars and Capitol hallways. It was a moment with tremendous political stakes: Kavanaugh's nomination itself seemed in doubt, and with it a firmer conservative majority on the nation's highest court.
Kavanaugh has denied the allegations and is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee later Thursday afternoon. He will seek to stir those watching with his own story of striving and service.
But for many watching Thursday morning, the political importance of the moment was secondary.
The power of the moment - the reason that people cried in airplane seats and called into C-SPAN to tell their own stories of sexual assault - was in seeing Ford tell a story of private pain before a massive public audience.
It was to see her speak, without knowing yet who would believe her.
"16A: Crying. 14B: Crying. 17C: Weeping," Ron Lieber, a New York Times columnist, wrote on Twitter from a flight headed from New York to Salt Lake City, listing the reactions as passengers watched the hearing on seat-back televisions. "I am one of the criers."
As the hearings began, some of the busiest places in the country fell quiet. At the New York Stock Exchange, Brad Smith - an anchor for the news site Cheddar - said normally frenetic traders were all watching the TVs. Phones rang in the background, unanswered.
In the Capitol Building itself, the halls were quiet, as senators not on the Senate Judiciary Committee bunkered in their offices to watch TV.
Hundreds of miles away in Milwaukee, a small group of people - including a few nurses just off the night shift and still in scrubs - watched the hearings at Coffeetails, a coffee shop that sells liquor until 11 a.m.
When the hearing began and Ford's face first flashed on the screen, the reaction was immediate.
"She looks terrified," said one man at the bar.
"Worse than deer in headlights," replied another.
"What do you expect," answered a woman nearby.
A few miles away from the Capitol in Washington - a city so odd that its bars treat congressional hearings like bowl games, with early openings and drink specials - Shaw's Tavern opened at 10 a.m., an hour earlier than usual. It offered bottomless mimosas.
Casey Chapman, a retired restaurant chef and manager from Alexandria, Virginia, got there at 10:30 a.m. He thought it was important to watch this in public, to show he supported Ford and other women who had similar stories to tell.
Chapman said he remembered that when he was young, he had felt a sense of entitlement, that a man who is successful should be able to have his pick of women.
That culture, he said, has gone on for too long.
"It's time for their reckoning, and it's time for victims to have a chance to talk. It's time for a change," Chapman said. He said he had never assaulted anyone but that he looked back and thought his old attitudes were wrong.
"The big difference is, I'm not trying to be a Supreme Court justice," Chapman added. "The time for making excuses is over."
Ellen Drumm, from Sarasota, Florida, came to the same bar with her daughter.
"I was a young girl when Anita Hill was up there, and I wanted to see if anything had changed," said Drumm, who is 59. In 1991, law professor Anita Hill alleged that she had been sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. After a contentious hearing process, Thomas was confirmed.
While looking up at one of the TV monitors during Ford's testimony, Drumm added that she doesn't see much of a difference between now and Hill's testimony in 1991.
Drumm said she thinks Ford is credible and doesn't see any reason she would subject herself to this type of scrutiny if she had not been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh.
"I don't think they understand the impact [sexual assault] has on people," Drumm said.
At Clark's Family Restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut - near Yale University, where Kavanaugh attended college and law school - an employee named Anna watched Ford's opening statement, in which her voice wavered as she recounted how Kavanaugh and another boy had allegedly assaulted her in a bedroom more than 35 years ago.
"She's really giving details. He's in for it," Anna said as Ford started to read her prepared statement to the judiciary panel. She declined to provide her last name.
Roy Tyson, 55, a service and maintenance worker at Yale, was eating at Clark's.
"I think everybody needs to be heard, especially the ladies," said Tyson, who said he is a Democrat. "I have daughters and a lot of granddaughters." He said that the FBI ought to investigate Ford's allegations.
Burkholder reported from New Haven, Conn. Fahrenthold reported from Washington. The Washington Post's Robert Costa and Michael Brice-Saddler, in Washington, and Dan Simmons in Milwaukee contributed to this report.