Even though I didn’t have a ticket, I was lucky enough to get off of work and be one of the one to two million people who traveled to Washington D.C. to see the inauguration and swearing in of Barack Obama! Patrick, his sister, his dad, and I left Richmond, Virginia at 1 in the morning and arrived at the metro around 4:00. The parking lot opened at 3am and the metro began running at 4am. The line already wrapped around the whole third level of the parking garage but it took less than an hour to get to the station bridge and onto a train.
I took some really awesome pictures of the capital building around 5:30. We were directed to seventh street where we stood in “line” for about an hour and a half before the police told us that this gate may never open and to go to twelfth street. Instead of braving the crowd though, we took the metro to federal triangle and welcomed the half hour of warmth. Especially me, because I only had on a short sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, jeans, socks, and my vans slip-ons. The twelfth street gate was already open when we got off the metro so we walked right onto the national mall which had filled up fast.
We found a spot about a third of the way up, though, with the Smithsonian castle to our right and the Washington Monument and reflecting pool a mile and a half behind us. There, we waited for nearly two hours before the inauguration began. We tried to get into the museums for warmth but they were either to capacity or open only to private parties. We found a first aid tent for Stephanie by the natural history museum but they said she wasn’t hypothermic enough. How the hell would they know? They said that she needed to be on a stretcher. If she were on a stretcher, I assure you she’d be on her way to a hospital, not a damn first aid tent. I even saw people walking unassisted into said tent so they’re full of shit.
Moving on, the inauguration started about 20 minutes late at 10:20. It’s ok, though; I waited eight years, and I could wait another 20 minutes. The Marine band played three marches, followed by the announcement of the current senators, past presidents and vice presidents, Cheney, Bush, the very classy Michelle Obama and her just as adorable daughters and finally Obama! Everyone booed when Bush was announced and shown walking. I saw a pin that said, “pack up your shit and get out!” I wanted it so badly. Cheney was in a wheelchair and Bush senior walked like he just shat himself.
I’ve never seen so much jubilation and hope gathered into two square miles. I cried, but not as much as I thought I would. Several times, the crowd chanted, “Obama! Obama!” By the time he was sworn in, I was frozen from the waste down but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat; it was my first trip to Washington for an inauguration and I’m so proud that it was for Obama and not Bush.
Obama’s speech was a bit long-winded but it was so profoundly moving and honest. He really gets it. He knows the country has problems and he knows that he can’t fix them all completely or quickly. But he’s honest about it. He’s competent and intelligent and he will pull this country out of the grave Bush dug. People cheered and applauded his speech, and not because it (subtly) rejected the Bush administration but because he gave America new hope. People also cried, but not because of the crisis he mentioned. They cried tears of joy for a new beginning.
Although we weren’t nearly close enough to get any pictures of Obama, I took more pictures of the capital building while he gave his speech, but I accidentally deleted my entire camera and had to take more. We were en route to the metro when we were stopped across the street due to an ungodly mass of people and an overcrowded subway. People pushed and shoved to the point where there was no more room in the station and 10,000 people had to wait outside to be let in only a few at a time. By this point, my feet were so numb that I forgot I still had feet. I couldn’t feel anything below my knees and I could barely lift my feet up off the ground to walk.
Times Square is clear of people on New Year’s in twenty minutes because people are divided into sections and if they leave their designated section, they cannot return. Yesterday, people were milling about in any direction that wasn’t blocked off. They were breaking down barricades and jumping over fences. It was verging on mass hysteria at times. It looked like a march on Washington with people flooding the streets and blocking traffic. If there were an emergency, it’s almost certain tragedy. There was such a huge disconnect among the facilitators, volunteers, police, and military. No one knew anything and everyone told us something different. I understand that D.C. didn’t anticipate a crowd this size but the people who are hired to make sure things run smoothly cannot be uninformed and incompetent. Only one person died, though; she got run over by a metro train. With the circumstances, it could’ve been a lot worse.
We headed back to the car at the Springfield-Franconia station after Obama’s speech, and it took us nearly three hours to get from the national lawn to the car. I was glad to be warm but I endured the brutal cold to be a part of and witness history. There was no way a chill in the air could stop me. I can just sense a peace in the country that has been absent for the last eight years. I’m proud to say I’m the only one in my family who voted for Obama and proud of my state which has voted democrat for the first time in over 40 years.