Considering that we live just outside our nation’s capital, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Barack Obama become president.
We woke up at 5 a.m. Our friend Sarah met us at our house a bit before 6 a.m. Once we were finally ready and had taken Lucas out, we headed for the bus, a little after 6 a.m. We took the bus to the Silver Spring metro station, and the platform was already packed! Fortunately, we made our way to the very end of the platform, and were able to get on the very last car, which was fairly empty.
We took the Red Line to Fort Totten and transferred to the Green Line. The sun was just starting to light up the sky. We figured that rather than entering the Mall on the side of the parade route (where there were security checkpoints and it would be harder to cross over toward the Mall), we should enter the Mall on the other side. Things went smoothly getting on the Green Line (we even got seats!) and got off at L’Enfant Plaza, which is just a couple of blocks from the Mall.
It took us an hour to get out of the Metro station. The place was packed, and they had to close the escalators out of the station because someone had a medical problem. That meant that people had to walk up the escalator, many of whom really weren’t fit enough to do so. This caused the entire station to get backed up. The station staff were managing it in a pretty hands-on way, and ended up letting everyone exit without swiping out. Still, it took a long time to get out.
We then had to walk from L’Enfant Plaza toward the Mall, down Independence Ave, to 14th Street. Along Independence, there were law enforcement officers and military personnel trying to keep the street open for VIPs to drive toward the Capitol. A couple of sets of cars passed us as we walked. The first set was four normal-looking cars (as opposed to presidential motorcade-like cars). The first car was John McCain driving himself and Cindy! The rest looked to be other congresspersons. The second set of cars was a couple of escorted black SUVs with tinted windows – couldn’t see who was inside.
We finally got to the Mall around 9 a.m. What would normally take us 30-45 minutes took us about 3 hours. We ended up in the middle of the Mall, around 12th St. When we got there, they were showing Sunday’s concert on the Jumbotrons. Dave and I had been there, but it was enjoyable to see again, and fun for Sarah to see it, since she wasn’t there. It was a good way to keep the crowd entertained. I busted out my hand and feet warmers, and put on a pair of Dave’s warmup pants over my jeans. I was wearing 5 layers on my torso (not counting scarves), and 3 layers on my legs. According to the Post, the temperature hovered around 28 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel more like 16 degrees
Then the live pre-show entertainment for the actual inauguration ceremony got started. There were a couple of choirs, then military bands. They also showed footage of all the various dignitaries arriving to the Capitol, and also entering into the VIP seating area.
Finally it got started! We were surrounded by some characters who were providing their own commentary, but they were harmless and not too annoying. The crowd did some booing when George W. came out, and chanting “Na na na hey hey goodbye”. But there wasn’t too much of that. The crowd cheered, waved flags, and applauded (mostly with gloved hands) when Obama came out! The crowd had a mostly very good vibe, and was of course very excited about Obama.
When Rick Warren came on, I was worried that there would be a negative reaction, but the crowd was respectful (except for 1-2 people booing). His invocation included a lot of really good thoughts, but it was a lot longer than I expected, and I was surprised (though not unpleasantly) that he ended with the Lord’s Prayer. Aretha Franklin sang, and was of course awesome. It was a thrill to see Joe Biden sworn in as Vice President, and then there was a quartet including Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma, playing a piece that John Williams arranged for the occasion.
Then, finally, Barack Obama was sworn in as our 44th President! I was surprised to see him mess up the beginning of the oath. But he recovered, finished strong, then gave his inaugural speech. It was really a wonderful speech, and set just the right tone for the occasion.
Sarah pointed out, “Americans have short attention spans.” After the speech, people started wandering off. There was of course still a bit left in the program – a pretty cool poem by Elizabeth Alexander, and a (quite long) benediction by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery. Then it was time to figure out what to do next.
We thought we would head for Dupont Circle, but the crowd flow forced us basically in the opposite direction. We were jammed with thousands of people on the corner of 14th and Independence for the longest time. As we waited, we saw the presidential helicopter transport the Bushes to Andrews AFB, to begin their retirement. Bon voyage!
We finally decided that the best thing would be to walk to a further-out Green Line station, so we continued down 14th Street to Maine, and walked along the water to the waterfront. We briefly considered stopping there for lunch, but the line out Phillips Restaurant was LONG. We walked past the Waterfront-SEU station, but it was mobbed all around the block. So we continued another half mile or so to the Navy Yard station (where the Nationals Ballpark is), got into the station easily, got on the first train that came, and even got seats on the train. Hooray!
When we got back to Silver Spring we stopped and had Thai food as a late lunch. There was a TV on, and we were surprised to see that the parade was just starting (it was 3:30 pm at this point). We finally got home a little before 5 p.m. What an adventure! But totally worth it.