Monday, January 26, 2009

Where Were You?

Now that I’ve finally thawed, I’m ready to share my experiences at last week’s inauguration in D.C. To be honest, it wasn’t only the bone-chilling cold that’s delayed this post, but the fact that it’s been difficult to gain perspective on the expansiveness of what we experienced.

We got on the road to head down to Maryland to spend the night with my girl, Tammy, late Monday afternoon. The plan was to get to Tammy’s, get a little sleep, head out to the Metro station at 2:30am and get in line to catch the first train into DC on Jan. 20th.

At 3am, we found ourselves with about 1,000 other folks with the same bright idea. We snapped photos, waited for our turn to participate in the group wave, sang songs and did whatever we could to keep our minds off the cold air. Thankfully, we boarded a warm train at 4:10am. We arrived in DC around 4:45am and headed over to the Newseum where we had tickets to enjoy the day’s festivities indoors and with access to clean bathroom facilities---- YEAH! The only hitch is the doors to the Newseum didn’t open until 10:00am and it was frigidly cold. I mean cold-to-the-bone... never felt this cold before kinda cold. Fortunately, Loverman had the forethought to pack hand-warmers to put in our gloves and foot-warmers for our boots, and although I’m sure they made a difference, in the middle of all that cold it was hard to tell.

Trying to walk over to the Newseum was no easy feat. As soon as we exited the Metro station, we joined hundreds of people making their way to various locations… the Mall... the Newseum, like us… or some other vantage point to witness history. No matter where you were headed, you were surrounded by a sense of good will, hopefulness, joy. I don’t remember ever feeling so a part of humanity before this day.

Sometime before 6:00am, we found ourselves in a sea of people unable to move forward. Loverman lifted Yannick onto his shoulders and I held Olivia’s hand tightly. Word had drifted through the crowd that anyone with a ticket to the Newseum would be allowed through the barricade to make our way to another line into the facility, but despite our best efforts we couldn’t move. In the midst of all of this I exchanged glances with Loverman wondering if we’d made the best decision to bring the kids into the mass of people. For a brief moment I felt great anxiety at the thought of the potential danger of being unable to move or get out of harm’s way if something jumped off. At some point after the sun had risen we heard a familiar voice pleading for passage through the crowd and as I turned to my right I found myself face-to-face with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. She, too, was trying to get to the Newseum. We tried to push through with her, but had very little luck.

It was until about 9:00am did we get to the line to gain access to the Newseum. We were probably in the first third of the line and there were still at least 800-1000 people ahead of us. Again, we danced around, tried to keep the kids occupied and our minds off the cold. While in this line we met three lovely women from Georgia and police officers from Louisville, Kentucky, who volunteered to come to DC to work for the day.

I should also note that at no point did I see a Port-a-Potty or encounter a police officer that could offer more information than what we already had. Thankfully, Starbucks allowed folks to use their bathroom facilities. Loverman thinks the hundreds of law enforcement officers were probably working on a need-to-know basis, because there’s no way the powers-that-be could coordinate the DC cops, Federal Marshals, Secret Service and visiting volunteer officers onsite to shepherd the 2 million visitors in town for the festivities.

We finally cleared security and made our way into the Newseum at 11:45am, just in time to jockey for a position in front of the huge Jumbotron. I’ve never felt so at-home surrounded by complete strangers. While waiting for the ceremony to begin I exchanged niceties with a woman who traveled from Colorado and a couple who had just moved to the states from Ghana. Olivia took dozens of photos of the crowd and Yannick simply enjoyed being able to sit in a warm place. Loverman wandered to an upper level of the building to get a better vantage point. As the television cameras caught Barack as he walked down the hall to the Capitol steps, I unexpectedly burst into tears. Why… I’m not sure. A stranger handed me tissues to wipe my tears. After getting myself together, I began to take some photos and scored two especially great shots for a news geek like me, one of George Stephanopolis and another of Charlie Gibson, who demanded a hug in exchange for having his photo taken. I gladly obliged.

Once the ceremony began, you could almost hear a pin drop throughout the viewing area and collective cheers, hugs and flashing flashbulbs abound as Obama completed his mangled oath. It really was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime moment, but I’m not really sure if it felt any different because we experienced it in DC. Over the past week, I’ve seen the most incredible photos depicting how folks all over the globe witnessed this historic moment and I don’t feel like our experience is any more significant because we traveled to DC to be closer to the scene. Don’t get me wrong, it was an unforgettable day and I’m happy we could share it as a family in DC and I’m sure it’s a day my children will never forget…. but no matter where you were the day Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States, we were all one… really ONE… full of hope and good will for the road ahead.


Ms. Wooden Shoes said...

I was there too. Check out my blog to read more about it.

Mango Mama said...

I sure will! Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, you painted an accurate picture of what I thought it would be like in DC for Inaugural Day. I hope your children have as great a memory of that day. I think it was wonderful that Olivia was taking so many pictures; because I can garuntee my sons would have been little whiny people on my arm all day. My husband, who had to work,was having none of it. I had a gleam in my eye at 7am and Hugh said, "you wanna go DOWN there, don't you?" My sons and I watched the entire coverage on different channels -- and I recorded all the shows I could. We waved flags and felt just as connected. I guess my moment close to tears was when Aretha Franklin sang. I know the words to many of the patriotic songs... it felt good to know and sing along at that moment.
And I really loved when Barack and Michelle walked down the street, holding hands, waving to people during the procession to the parade route. You felt they were in this together.
Much luv, thanks for sharing!
Kira H.

Mango Mama said...

Hey Kira, It sounds like you had a wonderful day and as I said, I don't think it matters where your were when Obama became president, it will remain a moment we'll all remember for the rest of our lives.

Thanks for visiting!