Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Inauguration

At 4:00am on the morning of the most momentous day in America that I've witnessed, I crawled out of bed to get ready to meet my friend Barbara. We were heading into D.C. to take part in a historic event and were not prepared to miss anything. It was bitterly cold and windy and we set off for the metro in the dark, both of us wrapped in multiple layers and feeling like Michelin men. I was dressed for the occasion with an Obama t-shirt, Obama hoodie, hat, buttons and silicone bracelets. I'd even painted my nails for the occasion.

We had planned ahead and already purchased our metro cards so as we headed into a packed station, we sailed past hundreds of people waiting in line to buy fare cards, and made for the platform. The eight cars on the train filled up quickly but we had seats so made ourselves comfortable for the ride which would usually take 45 minutes but today took double that.

We got off the train and joined the growing crowd as we all bustled towards daylight and closer to the Mall. Everyone was in excellent spirits and chanted along with the staff as they yelled, "Keep moving, keep moving!"

The streets were already filled with people heading to their chosen viewing points, or to ticket lines or simply strolling around and enjoying the atmosphere, as we were. We wanted to be on the Mall for the Inauguration speech but to avoid disappointment were not deciding on any one place. We stopped at a bar, had a hot chocolate and made use of the bathroom as we had no intention of using one of the 5100 Don's Jons.

We joined the crowds again and literally had to walk in circles or zig zag the streets to find a way through to the Mall as so many of the streets were blocked off. The 395 tunnel was pedestrians only and was a strange sight, having only seen it before filled with cars, bumper to bumper. With people moving in every direction, the scene reminded me of an ant farm. Despite the cold, confusion and crowds, everone was still cheerful and continued on their course. As we jostled along, slowly approaching the Mall, we snapped shots of people without losing our place in the dense multitude of ever increasing folks.

This was the closest we got to Obama, but unfortunately time did not allow us to wait in line for our photo to be taken.

This lady was handing out postcards and because I couldn't get too close to her without appearing rude, I have to surmise that she was covered in fridge magnets!

By the Smithsonian and the Monument, this guy had found a superb viewing point and had settled down for the duration. He's reading a paper in the second image; I hope he wasn't too frozen hours later to make the downward climb.

We finally got to the Monument where up on the hill, we had an excellent view all around and we also had some space to move but this filled rapidly. Barb made light of these protesters and it was all I could do to not laugh aloud while taking this photo.

Looking back to the Lincoln memorial showed some open areas but these were filled in about 20 minutes.

Here's a view which isn't seen too often, the White House with a colorful foreground border of porter potties!

We had got to the Monument at about 11:00am, half an hour before the Inauguration. The crowds were noisy, chanting and waving flags, their enthusiasm and gaiety was infectious and invigorating. But silence was immediate once the ceremony started. All eyes and ears focused on the Jumbotron and speakers, the only other sound was the wind blustering around us. The above image is Obama taking the oath.

This video is a snippet of Obama's speech and the crowd's reaction. It was an exhilarating moment and we could hear the crowd everywhere, behind us from the Lincoln Memorial and in front from the Capitol. The distance between both of these locations is two miles so that gives you some idea of the number of voices cheering.

This was looking back to the Lincoln Memorial with the World War II Memorial in front. The place was packed and the atmosphere was jubilant and electric. It's a rare thing to see a crowd this size with a smile on every face.

Once everyone had quietened down a little, people started moving about. We worked our way towards the World War II Memorial and saw this yellow bear hitching a ride.

Every position that was elevated was filled with photographers, each as anxious as us to try and capture the moment. Quite often I locked eyes with other photographers and smiled as we knew we were taking photos of each other.

This is my favorite shot of the day showing the Capitol and the flags surrounding the Monument with people hanging onto the flag poles.

Here's me by the World War II Monument and freezing cold. I'd not realized until I saw this photo how my arms stuck out thanks to the many layers of clothing underneath. Both Barb and I had been warm enough all the time we were moving around but standing still for well over an hour made us cold again and stiff.

As we walked to Arlington Cemetery we crossed over part of the Potomac which was frozen. Thankful to get on the metro train and miss the mass exodus, we headed back to Centreville where we sat in a sports bar and ordered some hot food, a celebratory drink and watched the Parade on TVs. I had to have a hot bath before the cold finally left my body, but it was all worth it. Our day had gone smoothly considering the estimated 1.8 million people we'd been mingling with, so smoothly that it was hard to take in that we'd captured our own little piece of history.
As Obama's campaign would say, "Yes, we did!"


Anonymous said...

Debby! I am SOOOO Thankful you blogged this. I wanted to be there so bad myself but the thought of perhaps having to pee in a port-a-potty was some consolation to not going there. DUH! I didn't even think about the fact that I could have come and stayed with you! I love that picture too of the flagpoles. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome adventure! Love ya! Heidi

Debby Karalee said...

That sucks you missed it, of course you could've stayed. you should've just turned up on the doorstep!

Katey said...

got to you from Heidi...awesome pictures! Will show my kids tomorrow....somebody that was there! so cool!