The big news and the big picture is captured by Anthony Shadid in his NYT dispatch, starting with this pitch perfect opening line:
The future of the Arab world, perched between revolt and the contempt of a crumbling order, was fought for in the streets of downtown Cairo on Wednesday.
His piece goes on to deliver terrific ground-level reporting (with an eye for the right detail):
The battle was waged by Mohammed Gamil, a dentist in a blue tie who ran toward the barricades of Tahrir Square. It was joined by Fayeqa Hussein, a veiled mother of seven who filled a Styrofoam container with rocks. Magdi Abdel-Rahman, a 60-year-old grandfather, kissed the ground before throwing himself against crowds mobilized by a state bent on driving them from the square. And the charge was led by Yasser Hamdi, who said his 2-year-old daughter would live a life better than the one he endured.
The story pivots deftly from the granular to a wide lens view:
From minute-by-minute coverage on Arabic channels to conversations from Iraq to Morocco, the Middle East watched breathlessly at a moment as compelling as any in the Arab world in a lifetime.
And here's the kicker, which encapsulates the deeply felt theme of Shadid's masterful story:
"I'm fighting for my freedom," Noha al-Ustaz said as she broke bricks on the curb. "For my right to express myself. For an end to oppression. For an end to injustice." "Go forward," the cries rang out, and she did, disappearing into a sea of men.