Words actually escape me when I look back at the events over the past few days and try to sum up what it was like to be at the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. Besides “moving” and “unbelievable” which a) are not my choices and b) don’t really do the scene justice I would add, “breathtaking”.
Let me back up a bit. Mrs. Bloggerman, who some of you know and even more of you love, worked her butt off for longer then either of us care to remember to get to this day and as a reward for all of her BST (blood, sweat, tears) she had entry into a number of the celebrations and events in honor of the inaugural. I as her husband was allowed to come along for the ride and enjoy the moment along side of her (now I know how Bill Clinton feels).
I won’t go into all the details but I do want to share some specific moments with you (Another post tomorrow will feature a link to all the pictures). The first is the inaugural swearing in ceremony from the US Capitol Building. We were very lucky to receive tickets to a “seated” area of the ceremony instead of the general admission standing areas that stretched from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial (a distance of over 2 miles long by more then a ¼ mile wide). In order to get through all the extra tight security we had to get up very early.
5am: I was up and out from our hotel room complete with bleary eyes and a hankering for coffee. Instead, I went out to see if I could pick up a commemorative copy of the days’ Washington Post. I backed off when the guy on the corner wanted $2 for it. My feeling is if I can’t pay 50 cents, it’s not worth it. That is until I decide I really want one and have to pay $8 on line. Oh well.
530am: We headed out for the 6 block walk through arctic DC to the gathering point for the buses that would take us down to the ceremony. A quick note here, most people had to walk through all the security, we were very lucky here again!
6am: We got to the staging area and made a v-line for Starbucks which was open and kicking complete with a line of customers at least 25-30 people deep. Armed with coffee and a bathroom break we headed outside to wait in line to get on the buses.
730am: We finally made it though security and on to the buses. We were fortunate to have the Secret Service set up a screening zone at the hotel so we didn’t have to go through with everybody else on the Hill.
830am: Even with a police escort it took nearly an hour to make a 5 minute trip because of all the pedestrians and visitors. It was still quite a site to see so many people out (many more then you’d see on a regular work day)
920am: We’ve now made it past all the gates and into our seats. I can’t believe how close we are. I’d estimate we were about 30-50 rows back from the platform above the Capitol where the ceremony was being held. We could make out the presidential seal on the podium (through the 2 ft of bullet-proof glass. We also could see close up on one of the jumbo-tron screens. The production team had video showing people already lined up back at the Lincoln Memorial.
10am: It is really cold and we’ve been out for almost 5 hours now. However the musical introductions have begun and a choir from San Francisco has started. They are pretty good.
1045am: It’s now only 15 minutes away from the start of the program and we’re getting really excited. Which is good because it actually seems to be getting colder as we go on. Congress has just been sat in the risers behind the stage
11am: The rest of the introductions begin and the crowd (now completely filled in the entire length of the Mall make the loudest sound I’ve ever heard when Barack Obama is introduced.
12pm: President Obama takes the oath of office and gives his inaugural address (follow this link for the video of the event from the White House website). The picture is the one at the head of this post.
1pm: With the events on the Hill over, we head back to our buses (with a quick stop in the port-a-john). The good news: we had over 100 port-a-johns to choose from as this was one of the best part of the event logistics. The bad news: the buses we came over on seemed to have lost a chunk of seats or picked up people that weren’t on them on the way over because we got 2 of the last seats on the last bus. While we were waiting to get on we got passed by all sorts of vehicles, from motorcycles and other buses, to horseback and pedestrians. But it was all worth the wait because the buses proceeded back, we followed the President’s parade route (the parade started about an hour or so later) down Pennsylvania Ave and dropped us of square in front of the White House. Everybody along the parade route was waving to us and excited....I don’t think they really knew who we were but ok.
130pm: We headed back to an hotel a few blocks over to view the parade from one of their suites and get ready for the evenings events.
I’m only going to touch briefly on our experience that night at the “Biden Home States Inaugural Ball” which was both of our first inaugural ball experiences. Besides being able to say we were in the same room with the Vice President (for 6 minutes) and the President (for 3 minutes) there is not much worth writing home about. Except of course for the natural beauty of Mrs. Bloggerman and her stunningly handsome husband.
I will close with this thought (which I’m appropriating from Don Imus’ show this morning). There were over one million people on the Mall for the swearing in but not one arrest. The feeling over the course of the Inaugural events was one of happiness, celebration, and joy. Nobody (in any of the events or areas I was in) was short or yelling at somebody else. If you were in line at an ATM and one of the two machines wasn’t working, we just waited and chatted with the people around you. I’m under no misconception that this mood will last in this town or that we won’t be back to business as usual in DC come tomorrow, but for a few days we had “hope” and a vision of the future of things to come. And that by itself was worth the frostbite.