"This is the party of the year," shouted Reed Lawrence, a senior from Smithfield, as he stood near one of several fires lit on the street by students. "We beat Duke my freshman year, and we beat Duke at Cameron my senior year. This is the greatest thing I've ever seen."
Members of the Chapel Hill police and fire departments blocked Franklin Street from the Henderson Street to North Columbia as partygoers held an unscripted celebration that bordered on pandemonium. "It's just awesome," said Amyn Lakhani, a sophomore from Bangladesh. "I hate Duke with a passion, and it was great to see UNC win. I'm proud to be a Tar Heel."
Some students hung from trees and streetlight posts, watching as other revelers bounced up and down on cars whose owners had left them parked in what would become the center of a mob scene. "Oh my God, I can't believe they're standing on that Honda," said shocked senior Matt Camp of Baltimore. "Just goes to show you to never park your car on Franklin during a game. They're destroying that car."
Chapel Hill Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said authorities didn't have the manpower to adequately prepare for the melee. "We tow the cars on Halloween and Final Four but not for Duke and ACC crowds," he said. "We don't have the personnel to do that."
But property damage and barely controlled street fires, the last of which the police snuffed out at about 1 a.m., did little to bring down the spirits of partygoers.
A group of three trumpeters played fight songs in the glow of an impromptu bonfire as students moved large plywood boards and a wooden sawhorse to the fire to fuel the celebration. "We just beat Duke. It's the best feeling in the world," said Brent Anthony of Drexel, one of the trumpeters, as he caught a breath.
Nearby another student commented on the possible outcome of the evening for some of the revelers. "I'm just waiting for a Tar Heel to catch damn fire," said Leigha Baughm, a recent graduate from Greensboro.
Police had their hands full amid the chaos. "I can't talk to you. We're just too busy right now, just too busy," said Capt. Everette Johnson.
He estimated 15,000 to 20,000 partygoers took over Franklin Street.