On Sunday, January 18, 2009, I woke up at 4:30am, threw my suitcase in the car and headed off to the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama! First I picked up my Aunt Jeannette in Southern Vermont. There are no bus stations in Central or Southern, VT, so from there we drove to Albany, NY to get on our Greyhound bus. It was windy and snowing the whole way there, but we made it safely. We had a transfer in New York City and then arrived in Silver Spring, MD (just north of DC) that evening.
We stayed at a friends house that night and left there very early the next morning to go to our hotel in Downtown DC where we would be spending the next 2 nights. It was too early to check in so we left our luggage with the front desk and walked to the closest Metro to get to Bernie Sanders office where we needed to pick up our tickets. When we arrived at the Senate office building, there was a line around the block to get in, but that was OK, we knew we would be standing in lots of lines during this trip. We got in and got our tickets. Unfortunately Bernie wasn't there himself, but the person handing out the tickets was someone I knew, so that was cool because I didn't even know he worked for Bernie now!
We were starving at that point so decided to look for a restaurant. That was a lot harder then it sounds! We walked up and down streets for about 2 hours before we found a restaurant (where do all those people who live and work in DC eat?), but while we were walking we saw lots of monuments and buildings, so that was cool. After lunch we took the Metro back to the hotel, checked in and took a nap. We had dinner at the hotel and decided to go to bed "early" (11pm) so we could get up early the next day. We had planned to take part in a service activity that day as Obama had asked everyone to do, but it just didn't work out...I did give a homeless person my pack of cigarettes that morning, so I'm counting that ;-)
We had set 2 alarms for 3:30am and neither of them went off! Luckily we also put in a wake-up call for 3:50, just in case, so we jumped out of bed when that rang, threw on almost every piece of clothing we had brought, and headed off for the inauguration at 4am! This was the 3rd morning in a row that I had been up before dawn, but who needs sleep ;-) The Metro was packed! We did get on the first train we needed, but we were squished right on there!
We arrived at our gate's line about 4:30am. It was a single file line and we were about the 200th people in it. We were in that line about 1/2 hour, and there were probably about 500 people in line at that point when one of the security people yelled for everyone to move to another place to line up. This of coarse made everyone start running to the new place in a totally disorganized way. The new line was about 30 people wide and we were about 20 people back, so we ended up a little farther back, but that was OK. This was our home for the next 3 hours until the gates opened at 8am. It was 19 degrees and felt like 8 degrees with the wind chill, but as I overheard 1 person say on her cell phone "I can't feel my fingers or toes, but there's no place I'd rather be!" So we sang, and chanted, and marched in place to keep circulation in our feet, and bid on imaginary cups of coffee, and sang some more. We finally resorted to Christmas carols because everyone knew the words. LOL.
I've waited to talk about the most important part of this trip until now because I took a picture that sort of puts what 2 million people were feeling for 2 straight days and nights into a visual image.
This picture was taken about 6am in that line for the gates to open. At this point most of the people around me had sat down for a while on the cold pavement to huddle together for warmth. This is a picture of me and a girl from California. I don't know her name, or really anything else about her, but we were huddled together for warmth with huge smiles on our faces.
It was like this the entire time I was there...The happiest place in the world! Everyone had a permanent smile on their faces, and if you were passing someone on the street, you made eye contact, asked how they were doing and cared that they were great too! If you had the opportunity, you struck up a longer conversation like you had been friends forever. It didn't matter what race that person was, or what religion, if they were young or old, rich or poor. We were all Americans, there together at a defining moment in our country's history. You could literally feel the hope and happiness in that city's air the entire time. It was truly amazing.
After the gates opened and we went through security, we got to our section which was the blue south standing section. It was on the capital lawn, but still a ways back. Maybe 100 yards? There were also a lot of trees so you couldn't see the podium from most of the places. We found a pretty good spot, but tall people stood in front of us, so we found another good spot, but tall people stood in front of us (this was not their fault. There were a LOT of people in that section and they had to stand somewhere...), so we found another good spot behind the port-a-potties, but then people climbed on top of the port-a-potties and we couldn't see again, so we found a 4th spot (behind some different port-a-potties LOL) where we could see and that's where we stayed! Here’s a picture of people climbing into the trees so they could see.
Howard Dean appeared on the SuperTron and we hooted and hollered. I heard some other people cheering too. Lieberman appeared and the crowd booed! This was uncharacteristic for the good karma of the crowd, but it was funny as hell! Bush was also booed when he appeared :-) There was dead silence when Obama took the oath and then massive cheering afterwards. People were crying and hugging. It was great!
We decided there was no way we would be able to get on a Metro train so we walked back to the hotel, and saw more monuments and important buildings on the way. We had planned to take a nap that afternoon before getting ready for the ball, but there were 2 million people literally partying in the streets, so we couldn't sleep through that! We went back to the hotel, warmed up a bit, ate lunch, and celebrated with everyone around us. "It's a new day" became everyone's favorite greeting to each other.
Then we went to the Artists' Ball that evening which was totally fun! It was in 3 buildings, 1000 people (just at that 1 ball), dancing, art gallery, belly dancers, comedians, fire performers. Great time. Here’s a picture of my Aunt and I just before we left for the ball.
We stumbled back to our hotel and fell asleep. Got up fairly early Wednesday morning, ordered room service, packed and then almost missed our bus! We got there 2 minutes before it left. LOL. So basically, it was a completely exhausting trip, border lining on physically torturous at points, and 2 of the best days of my life.