Editor’s Note: During the 1972 election, Timothy Crouse penned “The Boys on the Bus” – a book that introduced us to the gritty (mostly male) journalists on the campaign trail. Over four decades later, the daily grind of election may be the same, but the faces have certainly changed.

Meet CNN’s “Girls on the Bus.”

CNN —  

Somewhere along the campaign trail I fell into the habit of smiling back at members of the crowd as they jeered at me.

Some days it felt like that was my armor – a shield from the chants of “CNN sucks.” Other times I hoped it would be a signal. “Hey, I’m just doing my job. I know you’re mad at me, but I’m not mad at you.”

It was evident early on that Donald Trump was a different kind of candidate. He didn’t just hold a grudge against the media – a battle that’s become the norm for Republican candidates. No, he held grudges with specific members of the media.

I got an early taste of it in November 2015 when Trump called me out by name at a rally in South Carolina. He referred to me as a “total novice reporter” and did an unflattering impression of me doing a live shot. The crowd followed his lead, turning around to taunt me.

For a year and a half I have followed Trump around the United States and, at times, overseas in his unlikely and in many ways unprecedented bid for the presidency.

Whether it was an unexpected endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the primaries, or a surprise appearance with women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, Trump has kept the press on its toes.

Balancing motherhood and the 2016 campaign

I’ve missed morning spin classes and nights at home with my fiancé. During a weekend off in Kansas City I frantically made phone calls between sips of coffee and bites of donut after Trump fired his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

At my sister’s bachelorette party in New Orleans, I slipped away under the guise of getting a manicure and pedicure. Mostly I made calls about the drumbeat that prompted Trump to can his second campaign head, Paul Manafort.

Trump knows how to seize a news cycle, for better or for worse – and sometimes for reasons he can’t entirely control.

In March, we were in New Orleans for one of the last rallies before the Trump campaign beefed up their security. It felt like a tinderbox. Protests broke out continuously. Many of the protesters were young; some of them teenagers. Many of them were minorities. As security came to escort them out, members of the crowd tore at their clothes, grabbed for them, kicked them.

After the first few were removed, I wanted to scream at the protesters to stop resisting – to yell that if they dragged their feet the crowd was going to turn on them. I held my tongue.

When we arrived in San Jose in June, I wanted to see the Trump event from the other side. I was roaming the streets on protest duty – an assignment that was largely quiet until Trump’s rally started to disperse.

Anti-Trump protesters started hunting for people in the signature “Make America Great Again” hats and t-shirts.

A flash caught my eye. It was a teenager in Trump gear, sprinting with a mob in pursuit. The kid didn’t stop running until he was safely ensconced behind a wall of police officers wearing riot gear.

I interviewed him and his father afterward. They held up a pile of Trump campaign signs they hoped to bring home from the rally that night; each one had been ripped out of their hands, shredded by protesters who reviled Trump.

Over the course of a year and a half, I’ve seen Trump supporters who have spit in protesters’ faces. I’ve seen them hurl racial slurs with abandon.

I’ve also watched protesters cold-cock Trump supporters – and vice versa – in fits of rage. And I’ve watched Trump opponents harass a woman and pelt her with eggs.

Time and time again, I have seen Americans from both sides of the aisle fail to treat one another with respect and dignity. I’ve watched them fail to treat one another as human beings.

In many ways, the final months of the campaign have been the darkest.

Now, members of the media walk into an event like Trump’s mid-October rally in Cincinnati, greeted by a crowd of thousands screaming at us about biased coverage and flipping us off.

It didn’t happen in a vacuum. The anger and emotion against the establishment – whether that meant politicians, the press or the financial elite – didn’t build overnight.

The “dishonest media” had been one of Trump’s favorite foils for a while by the time Christie endorsed him in February. That was the day someone tampered with the cables of our live truck. We struggled to take the news of the endorsement live while our cables were cut not once, but twice.

During the general election, we were at a stop in Florida when someone followed my producer to our car. When we left the event hours later, we discovered someone keyed our car on both sides.

The night of that raucous rally in Cincinnati, as thousands of Trump supporters bellowed at us, my mind was elsewhere.

When I landed at the Cincinnati airport the night before, my fellow passengers and I began to notice some activity on the tarmac as we were deplaning.

It was the honor guard.

We got off the plane and, one by one, started huddling in the corner near a window overlooking the tarmac. We watched as the honor guard stood in formation. The man next to me gasped as a family walked onto the tarmac.

We were separated by yards of darkness and by the cool glass walls of the airport terminal. But there was no mistaking that family’s grief as they held one another and waited for the casket to come off the plane.

We didn’t know the fallen soldier. We didn’t know the family huddled on that tarmac. But as the casket came rolling off the plane, I wept with my fellow passengers. The man next to me held his hand to his forehead in a salute.

Amid the chaos of that Trump rally, all I could think about was that solemn moment the night before.

In a year where compassion has sometimes felt in short supply, where politicians from both political parties have at times failed to inspire, Americans are still quietly honoring one another for their sacrifices. They’re propping each other up and empathizing with each other in moments of pain.

That’s the kind of country we want to be.