Thursday, February 5, 2009

Inauguration Day Recap

Sorry it's taken so long to get our final posts out summarizing inauguration day.

Our alarm went off about 5:30am on January 20th. That was probably a bit late but we wanted to get some rest as we went to bed about 11:30 the night before getting all our gear. As usual, it took some time for us to get out of bed and then we had to strategize about what to eat and what to drink since we were really worried about the bathroom situation at the Mall and figured we wouldn't be able to go. We had a little food and drink and then our savior Loren got up downstairs and drove us to the Metro around 6:45am.

Our train station was Takoma on the Red line (metro map) and when we got to the platform, there were lots of people waiting. 1 train went by without stopping so we decided to go 2 stops north to Forest Glen (away from DC) so we could catch a train going south. That was a good strategy as the Silver Spring station had lots of people so we were able to get on before them.

Our plan was to switch at Gallery Place-Chinatown (woman fell on the tracks at this station) to the Green line so we could get off at L'Enfant Plaza which was close to the Mall. We heard some people talking about switching at the Fort Totten stop instead to the Green line (they were from Texas) and we thought that sounded pretty smart as it would be less crowded so we went ahead and did that and it worked out very well. We were cruising along until we started to get closer to downtown and then had lots of waits for other trains to clear stations. Finally, we were coming up to our stop at L'Enfant Plaza and we whizzed right through it. There was an absolute wall of people and the station was filled to capacity. We ended up at the next stop which was Waterfront-SEU. After wondering if we should try to catch a train back up to L'Enfant, we worked our way patiently through the station with the rest of the crowd. It was great to get out of the station and breathe some fresh, crisp air. We tried to duck into Safeway to use the bathroom but there were no public bathrooms so we started walking to the Mall.

We were able to walk for 8 or 10 blocks and then we started encountering lots and lots of people. We thought 'we've got tickets, where's our line?' Turns out this was the line for people with silver tickets and we kept walking and walking and walking for about 10 blocks till we hit the back of the line. A very helpful volunteer told us that security machines had broken and lots of people were being redirected over to the security gates we were walking towards and we thought there was no way we were going to get in but thought we'd try anyway. We got to the back of the line and all of a sudden, the line broke up and everyone started walking towards the capital. We had to stop of course to buy some Obama air fresheners but after about 3 or 4 blocks, we hit a wall of people. We could actually see the capitol and the stage and see what was happening and we couldn't believe it. We were close enough and this would have been fine to watch the ceremony but the blob of people was actually advancing towards the entrance. There was hardly any pushing and everyone was really friendly and we were all having a good time. It took about 1 1/2 hours but we finally got through security. Ellen and I separated near the end but regrouped right before security. They did a pat down as the machines were broken and they didn’t even look at tickets. We got into the Silver ticket area about 10:15 and the musical portion of the program had just started. It was really very open in the area we were and there was only about 1 or 2 people in line for the toilets which was a good thing because we were really ready to go. We took an area behind the reflecting pool, all the way to the left looking out from the capitol. We tried moving up closer on the right of the reflecting pool but we couldn't see much better and couldn't hear nearly as well so we moved back to our original position.

There was a lot of room until about 11:30 when a rush of people came from the back. We don't know if they just let lots of people in or they break down the gates but all of a sudden, it was very packed in but still very friendly and lots of pain. We watched the ceremony and could see some activity with our binoculars but couldn't make faces out on the stage. We all let out a huge cheer when Joe Biden was sworn in and yelled something about how great it was to see Cheney go. We sat in amazement when noon came and went and President-Elect Obama still hadn't been sworn in. We were so excited when it came time for the oath to be administered. When the mistake happened with the words of the oath, we were a little confused as we couldn't quite hear what happened through the loudspeaker but were so happy when the oath was completed. What a relief to be free of the Bush administration and so nice that we can have a peaceful transition of power in our country. We listened to the Inaugural Address still a bit in shock but really happy to be with all the people. When everything was complete, lots of people filed out onto the reflecting pool ice and everyone waved and sang good-bye to the helicopter taking George Bush away! Yeehaw!! That was really fun!

We started filing out of the Mall on our way to the Rayburn building. By this time, Dave's feet were freezing cold and he could hardly feel anything. Once we started walking, that helped a lot. We sat in line at the Rayburn building over an hour trying to get in to attend a Minnesota party in the Transportation and Commerce room. We were able to get a little food there at least and then we made our way to Congressman Walz's office to find a place to rest. Once there, we made ourselves at home and had some food and plunked ourselves down on the couch and had a good rest. We met some other Rochester folks and had a nice greeting with Congressman Walz and then another good long chat with Gwen Walz. Both she and Tim related to us the most poignant moment of the day. Congressman John Lewis from Georgia was able to greet Barack Obama coming out on the stage and they both thought about the journey for Congressman Lewis from one end of the Mall with Martin Luther King at his “I have a dream” speech August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to the capitol for inauguration of Barack Obama. Here's an article discussing John Lewis and Barack Obama’s relationship. Gwen Walz also spoke of the incredible sound waves rolling up the Mall and how amazing it was to hear them. What a great day!

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