Inauguration 2009 - The Story Part 2 (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Tuesday, January 20th
230a is super early. Crazy early. An early that is just not normal. But there we were, getting ready to leave the house for the Inauguration. We had already considered the day a success when our alarms woke us up. Score!! We got ready and packed in record time. It was time to hit the road for the train station. Now I don’t know how long the trip was supposed to be to the train. 15 or 20 minutes, I think. Parking for the train station opened at 330a. Trains started running at 4a. We were leaving the house at 315a. We thought we were going to be golden!! I stress the word…thought…
It was about 345a when we realized something was horribly wrong. One mile before the exit on the highway, we were in the long line to make the exit. Two hours later, we had made it to the garage and parked the car. Thank goodness for WTOP-FM. That station had a reporter in the parking garage we were trying to get to. Every 10 or 15 minutes, he would be on-air saying how there was plenty of parking still available. That one reporter gave us hope. And at that point, we needed hope, because our crazy plans were quickly going up in smoke.
But we finally made it to the train. And we thought we were doing great because a train showed up right away and we got seats. The train became more and more filled as we waited. There were people who obviously had never rode a train before as parents let their kids sit on the floor of the train (Suburbanites!!). The kids got up quickly at the next stop as the train got exponentially more crowded. It was then that there started to be problems with the doors. As in, so many people were cramming on the train that the doors wouldn’t close. And these people didn’t want to wait for another train. Eventually, we were all forced to get off the train because the doors broke due to the overcrowding. The bright side was that there was another train that arrived a few moments later. The not so bright side was that we didn’t get seats. We did get mighty close to our fellow trainers.
All of the maps said the best stop would be L’Enfant, so who were we to argue with maps. Sadly, everyone else going to the Inauguration thought the same thing. We got out of the train and were suddenly in a sea of people. We actually made it up the stairs to get out of the station and realized we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. This place was PACKED!! And scarily so. This was the kind of crowd that could have easily turned into a mob situation. Thank goodness there wasn’t any pushing or shoving, because if there were, there would have been major problems and casualties.
The reason for the mass was evident quickly as they weren’t letting people out of the train station. Eventually, someone got over the loud speaker and announced that they were going to open the gates and would let groups of people out at a time. They also asked everyone not to push or shove. Yeah, right.
We eventually made it out of the gates and up to the surface. Volunteers were everywhere directing us to the Ticketed Areas (sadly, not us) or Non Ticketed Areas (so us). We just walked with everyone else to our final destination, which ended up being…
The Washington Monument!!
It was at least a mile away from the Capitol, but we were at a landmark with views of the Jumbotrons and we were going to be part of history. By this time, it had taken us 5.5 hours to get from the house to the Washington Monument. We put out a blanket, and opened the bags full of snacks. We were in this for the long haul.
Yes, it was cold. Not the frostbite-inducing cold that had hit Chicago right before we left, but it was cold. Even with the tank top, sweater, fleece, coat, hat, scarf, jeans, leggings and gloves, it was cold. The cold did go in waves. Sometimes it was fine. Othertimes…it made you want to cry. And there was no place to go to get warm.
The area we were standing did get very crowded. Unfortunately, “Binoculars Guy” was smack dab in my way at every turn. So the view, even with the Jumbotron in sight, was limited. Once the Inauguration started, the audio was better. And in triplicate. We had the people next to us watching a little TV with the audio on high. That one we heard first. Then we heard the same audio about 5 seconds later from the closest Jumbotron. Then a second or so later, we heard the audio again behind us. So we could have actually spoken along with the third audio ☺
The actual Inauguration…what can I say?? Everyone saw it. The speech was amazing (how Obama can slam Bush so forcefully without saying his name and with Bush sitting RIGHT BEHIND HIM?? That was awesome!!) . The girls were adorable. Michelle looked fantastic. It was a wonderfully historic occasion.
What surprised me the most was that the Inauguration was not the extreme Love Fest that the Grant Park Rally was. At Grant Park, there was the most amazing feeling of joy and happiness. People were stopping and talking to total strangers in the street. While the Inauguration was also filled with people who were so excited for the moment, it didn’t evoke the same feeling of elation that we had at Grant Park.
What amazed me the most were the lack of kids, but the abundance of the elderly. Sure, there were some kids. We didn’t see (m)any babies and honestly, that was a good thing. Long lines, crowds, crazy amounts of waiting and the cold are not things that (I would assume) would be the best thing for babies. Same thing with the elderly. These are the elements that wouldn’t be ideal for them, but man…there were so many people there who you would never think could make it across their living room, but they were standing and climbing steps and braving the elements just to see this event. That’s what is the strongest memory of this whole day. This was something that was so important to so many people. It gives me goosebumps to think about.
Getting home was another adventure, but one that wasn’t as long or as stressful as it was in the morning. Our original train station was shut down to some woman who fell in the tracks (she’s alright), so we walked quite a way to get to another Metro station. The Metro people really figured out what worked and what didn’t with the crowd (1,544,000 trips were taken on Inauguration Day!!) and we waited in line outside. Once we got inside, it was super easy to get on a train and the ride was smooth and quick. It was wonderful to be back in warmth and going home.
And going home, we would.
Wednesday, January 21st
Our original plan was to drive straight home. On the way to DC, we saw an exit for Gettysburg. We figured we could make it a total Lincoln-filled weekend. Unfortunately, several days of little sleep and crazy situations took its toll on us. A migraine situation kept us in Manassas a little longer than expected, so Gettysburg was not going to happen. Hmmm…Road Trip Part Deux?? Luckily, Starbucks can cure all that ails you, so after the joy of Chai, we were on the road. And we weren’t the only ones.
It was like a caravan traveling West as everyone was going home. Obama stickers were on most cars we saw. And when we stopped at McDonalds (the lunch of champions), the lines were long and the Obama shirts were many.
We went 1635 miles over 7 states in 4 days for 24 hours of driving to be a part of history. It’s still surreal. I finally watched the Inauguration today and it’s amazing to think that it happened and that I was there. While not everything went smoothly, I wouldn’t have traded the bad for anything. Yes We Did!!