Thursday, January 22, 2009

Heading Down to History, My Inauguration Day

Here's how my day went on Inauguration Day when I got to witness history.

I got up around 6. I turned on the TV to see what was going on down on the Mall. The reports were of thousands of people down there. They had pictures but you really couldn't get a sense of how many people were really there because it was still dark.

My original plan had been to leave around 8. But I decided to leave a little earlier. I made my video saying I was off and then I was off. I went down to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop. The platform wasn't too crowded. There was even a train on the platform going downtown.

But there was a small problem. The doors were opening and closing repeatedly. This is a sure sign that one of the doors wasn't closing properly. It was a good bet that this train was going to go out of service. Luckily a train going in the opposite direction pulled in. Many people, me included, jumped on this train. We headed up to the next stop, Brookland, and got off there. And it just so happened there was a train on the platform. So we all jumped on.

Sure enough the train operator came on and said we would be holding here because of a train having problems closing its doors at Rhode Island Ave. We waited on the platform. In the car I was in were members of the media. The cameraman was holding a camera that said BBC on it. I never found out if that is who the crew was actually with. As we waited, the crowd got to know one another. I started talking with a couple of people by me. You found out where they were from and where they were going to go. A couple women were from out of town and asked how many more stops a certain station was.

As we continued to sit on the platform, one women, who actually had a seat, near me made a call on her cell phone asking her mother to pray for the train to start moving. The cameraman was standing by her and turned on the camera and then moved his mic toward the woman. I'm not sure how much of the conversation he got. I will say moments after the women got off the phone the train started moving.

My goal was to reach Union Station. I figured from there I would be able to work my way down the Mall and get my spot near the Smithsonian Castle. The train was packed by the time we got to Union Station. I was, thankfully, able to get off there.

Lots of people got off at Union Station. Once outside well that's when I got my first idea of just how many people were actually around. The crowds during the course of the day would only continue to grow.

What I didn't realize was that a few blocks down from Union Station was a gate for people with tickets to view the swearing in. This was the start of my move west. The problem was figuring out the place to go to get to the Mall. This is the one fault I would have with the way security ran. Most of the time you find a security person to talk to and ask "hey I want to get on the Mall. how do I do that?" What I didn't understand is why no one had a bull horn telling people what to do.

The perfect example of this was around 6th Street. There was a huge line of people coming up 6th Street. They blocked the people who were going West, I think we were on E Street. It would have been great to have a police officer with a bull horn saying this line is for people going to the parade route, which it was, if you want to get down to the Mall go to 12th Street.

I found that out by asking people. So it was off to 12th Street. At 12th Street it was go to 13th Street. At 13th Street it was go to 17th Street. But in order to do that you had to head further north. First the cross street was H, then I and then K. It turned out you could take I Street and get across. I ended up waking by my office.

Now at least the crowd had a purpose and a goal. Throughout this time every so often I would call my dad and ask what he was seeing on TV. He said lots and lots of people. For a time I thought I would not make it in time to see the ceremony. It was almost 9. I thought there was no way I would get through security in time. Little did I know that the Mall would be closed at 9:15. As it turned out things could not have worked out better.

Finally got to 18th Street. Once again you got to know your neighbors. I ended up walking down with a women and her daughter. We talked about why we were there. We both said we just had to be there. We could not not be down here when such an historic even took place. I also added that I had to see first hand that Bush was no longer president. That drew laughter from the people around me.

As we crossed Pennsylvania Avenue, we all got our first glimpse of where we were going. All you could see was people. People the entire width and breadth of the street. And if you looked back you saw the same thing.

On the steps of DAR Constitution Hall were people holding signs. One said MLK is smiling today. At that point there were cheers and the chant went up Obama Obama. It was a chant you would here throughout the day. Even though there was a huge crush of people, there were no problems. There was just this overwhelming sense of joy and happiness. You could just feel it in the crowd. You could see it on everyone's faces. And it just grew and fed off the ever increasing number of people heading down to history.

We all finally made it. We were on the ground of the Washington Monument. There was no security which the women I was with and I both thought strange. But we were not on the Mall and so there were no check points. If there had been, I don't think I would have seen the ceremony. As it turned out it was after 9. Maybe 9:30. I wanted to wander around some so I said good bye to my new friends. I said enjoy the day. They said we will and you do too.

Around 10:20 I found my spot and waited. I got a good spot near a jumbotron and speakers. I was just north of the Monument. The day had started out a little cloudy but the sun slowly came out.

As the dignitaries began to arrive, the crowd reacted to them. As I said before the Republicans did not fair well. When the elder Bush was shown on the screen, there was a smattering of boos. Then a guy shouted out "Sorry about your son." Laughter to that response. Then when the current Bush was shown the whole crowd erupted into boos.

However, the Democrats did much better. Best round of applause was for the Clintons.

As the time for the ceremony drew closer, there were pictures of Obama making his way toward the Capitol. Every time his limo was shown people applauded. Then you saw Michelle and the kids, a huge round of applause.

Finally Obama was announced and came through the doors on to dais for the ceremony. People went nuts. I took in a deep breath and thought it is really going to happen. This is REALLY going to happen.

I should say that at this point the any direction you looked all you could see were people. People were still pouring on to the Monument grounds even as the ceremony started.

Biden was sworn in. Everyone applauded and then and then. When the Chief Justice asked if Obama was ready to take the oath of office a woman said in a very loud voice Yes you are. (You can hear that on my swearing in clip)

"So help me God" Obama said. The crowd exploded. Chants of Yes We Did and of course Obama. People hugging and jumping up and down. It was amazing!

I'll talk more about the speech and the journey back home later. But for right now I'd like to say:

Here was a transcending moment in American history that will always be remembered and talked about. I can say I was a part of it.

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