(Back in January, I went to Barack Obama’s inauguration. I never really finished writing about it, but if I don’t post it now, I figure I never will. So please pardon the abrupt ending.)
The alarm went off at 4:45 am. In case you haven’t seen a mid-winter 4:45 am lately, let me remind you, it’s not the prettiest time of day.
Bleary-eyed, I opened the closet and began the lengthy process of pulling on layer upon layer of warmth. In all, the clothes weighed more than Malia Obama.
The layers in order of application:
1. Blue Hanes boxer briefs
2. Grey Under Armour long sleeve form fitting cold gear shirt with mock turtleneck
3. Navy blue American Apparel sweatpants with white piping. (why do I know that word?).
4. Z-Brand boot-cut jeans
5. Brown waffle knit American Apparel thermal shirt
6. Black, white, purple and blue striped wool sweater from H&M
7. Grey Syracuse hoodie sweatshirt
8. Green wool Wigwam 40 Below boot socks
9. White Puma cross trainer sneakers
10. Red and tan Ralph Lauren Polo track jacket
11. Kelly green fleece Gap hoodie sweatshirt
12. Black fleece-lined Old navy pea coat.
13. Black fleece neck warmer
14. Grey fleece Syracuse winter hat
15. Brown fleece, tweed and corduroy scarf hand-made by my lovely ladyfriend.
16. Ski gloves
I looked like a giant version of Randy from A Christmas Story.
We packed our six energy bars (of which we would eat one), a pouch of dried mango slices, an apple and two bottles of water and loaded into the car.
After picking up a friend in Federal Hill, we pulled into the parking garage at Baltimore’s Penn Station, surprised to find spaces still available. We clutched our commemorative Barack Obama MARC train tickets and climbed the staircase from the underground garage. The line snaked out of the front doors of the station and onto the sidewalk. A Baltimore City police officer directed us inside the station for the line for the P4 train, scheduled to depart at 6:20.
People standing in line had Obama gear everywhere. Obama buttons. Obama stickers. Obama knit caps and Obama tee shirts. They featured Obama’s face as a photographs, posters, graphic designs and beadazzles. They declared Obama Mamma. They had a variety of abstract nouns. Hope. Change. Victory.
The train pulled into BWI rail station and a new mass of passengers stepped on board. They chanted O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma! Everyone all smiles and good cheer.
Another stop at Odenton and one more at Bowie State before the conductor announced “next stop, Washington DC.” The passengers let out a cheer and another round of O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma.
The train arrived a bit before 7:30. We stepped onto the platform and into the crowded Union Station. It was buzzing.
The B. Dalton Booksellers at Union Station had Obama paraphernalia on every available window display. Commemorative Magazines, books, newspapers and photos.
Over the next two hours, we followed a mass of people through a maze of streets. We followed D Street west, turned left on 3rd street and then down into the 3rd street tunnel.
The tunnel led south beneath millions of cheering people on the mall and spat us out near the entrance to 395. From there, we traced the exit ramp and walked further and further from the Capitol, alternating blocks north and west. Every street was lined bumper to bumper with parked buses.
At 14th Street, the crowd pushed through a bottleneck and turned down Independence Avenue. Here we had our first look at the crowd. The lawn surrounding the Washington Monument was shoulder-to-shoulder people. A sea of smiling faces, knit caps and scarves.
We ducked under a chain link fence, walked past The Great Wall of Porta-Potties and found a spot in a ditch right about at Jefferson Drive between the Washington Monument and 14th Street. It didn’t take long for the rest of the yard to fill in. Before long, there was literally not space for a single body in the grassy area in front of the Washington Monument – a field that is about three blocks tall and one block wide. That’s to say nothing of the football fields upon football fields filled with people between the Monument and the Capitol. A few brave spectators climbed on top of the porta-potties for a better view, putting an incredible amount of trust into the structural integrity of a plastic room filled with unpleasantries.
From there, it was a whole lot of standing and waiting. As we arrived on the mall, the jumbotron played the last of Sunday’s inauguration concert.
Then the inauguration celebration began.
First came the procession of the house of representatives. Then all of the Governors. Then Senators. Then Supreme Court Justices. Next came the former Vice Presidents, the Former First Ladies, the Former First Children and, finally, the former Presidents. The cameras tracked the past Presidents as they arrived at the U.S. Capitol building.
As soon as George W. Bush appeared on screen, the crowd erupted with boos. They sang “Nah na na na. Nah na na na. Hey Hey Hey. Goodbye.”
The closed-captioning on the jumbo-tron read:
In front of us an African American mother had brought her sons down from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the day. They were fourteen and six. The six-year-old wore a puffy green jacket with a hood. He alternated between wiping his nose on the sleeve and head-butting his brother in the stomach. His mom turned to him and said “stop doing that. Why are you doing that?”
“I want a hot dog.”
Finally it was Barack Obama’s turn to emerge from the doors of the capital to greet his 1.8 million fellow Americans. The crowd was jubilant, shouting, cheering, chanting. Yes. We. Can. Yes. We. Can.
Here are photos from the day:
George W. Bush leaving in his helicopter: