I know, I know…Inauguration was 3 weeks ago! I definitely failed on my end of things as far as giving you the full update you wanted. But if you’ve read any of my last posts, you’d see that my global life was somehow paralleling my work life; everyone in the world was anxiously awaiting the Inauguration of Barack Obama, while everyone in my immediate surroundings have been anxiously awaiting the Installation of Pastor Karen Brau – the new pastor of Luther Place (and my new supervisor!). PK’s installation was February 1st, so now that both Obama and PK have officially moved into their offices, I’m ready to talk.
January 20th, 7am. The Bon house was bustling. I realize that the rest of the city was bustling around 3 or 4am, but we are not morning people over here – Barack Obama or not. So 7am was the best we could do. I put on a tank top, long sleeve thermal shirt, a sweatshirt, a sweater, a coat, long underwear, pants, two pairs of socks, a scarf, a hat, and mittens, and was ready to go. 45ish minutes later, we were out the door, pumped for the 45+ minute walk to the mall.
I have never seen so many National Guard people in my life. 3 days before Inauguration, they were everywhere in clumps all over our neighborhood. It was bizarre, and I must confess that when I was walking down the street and saw them ahead, I’d cross to the other side. Something about lots of buff men creeps me out. Anyway, there were even more of them Inauguration morning. (I heard it was the National Guard from Iowa, but then heard they were from all over.)
As we walked, we were joined with many of our neighbors. Even from this distance, you could tell that an extra energy was in the air. Someone recently compared it to the feeling of sunshine after many days of rain. Everyone around you seems much more chipper, and the world doesn’t seem to be so drab after all! This has been the best comparison I’ve yet found for that morning. The sun was out and it was cold enough. Our plan of attack was to head down 7th St NW (the Capitol is essentially at 1st St), entering the mall there. It was a breeze until we reached E St (the Capitol is essentially at A St). We halted to a stop. Impatience drove us to continue further away from the Capitol to 12th St, where we heard there was another entrance point.
Unfortunately, we were greeted by the same crowds (…I’m not sure why this surprised us). We decided we’d have to wait wherever we went, so we stood and waited.
At that point in time, I felt quite warm! I was literally squished on every side, but most everyone was in high spirits, so it wasn’t too bad. While we waited, my housemate Sara decided to write an I Spy-type game out for us. I must say that this type of nonsense is largely her forte, as she gave us hilarious things to find, including – but not limited to: dreadlocks, a prison tat, Steelers gear, and diaper changing. Meanwhile, the crowd was moving nowhere, and some young man climbed up a traffic light to see what was happening and yell reports back to the crowd. (We cheered him on.) The word on the street was that people were being let through security 4 or so at a time. About this time, an ambulance drove right up to the crowd with the intention of having us part like the red sea. Now, I’m not sure if I mentioned that we were PACKED together, but we were PACKED together. As you can imagine, this just about insighted rioting as the crowd yelled to the ambulance that there was NO WAY they were going to get through! The ambulance inched forward anyway, and our only option was to suck in and squish some more. This wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as the fact that the ambulance made it almost entiredly through the crowd and then decided to back up the way it came!! I will never know who that ambulance was rescuing or why it didn’t go around the block instead of right through us.
After the ambulance excitement, not much else happened that was exciting except for a man on stilts blowing into some plastic trumpet. Hilarious. Eventually, a loud voice announced that they weren’t letting any more people through at 12th St and that we should head to 18th St to go through. My housemates and I didn’t believe this for one second. We watched as much of the crowd dispersed, sure we would walk right onto the mall! After about 10 minutes, we agreed that maybe the loud voice actually knew better than we did. Off we went, set on 18th St.
Well, magically, we were able to walk right down 18th St and onto the mall – no security, no nothin’. It was fantastic, though I started feeling colder without so much body heat surrounding me! We ended up a couple football fields behind the Washington Monument. Quite far from the Capitol, though considering there was a time when we thought we’d just be cheering from E St, we were thrilled to have made it to the mall. Although the Capitol was too far for us to see, we ended up standing quite close to a large Jumbotron and set of speakers. Everything was about as perfect as could be, sharing space with 2 million other spectators.
I expect that at past Inaugurations, there were probably a lot of protestors. This time around, however, everyone was cheering for the same team. It was an unbelievable feeling. Smiles everywhere! I think it’s wonderful that America has elected its first African-American president, though I don’t think anyone should have voted solely for that reason. But that Tuesday morning, I couldn’t help but feel joy for the proud African-Americans surrounding me in front of that Jumbotron. A dad held his 4(?) year-old daughter, and although she probably had little understanding of the magnitude of such an event, it was priceless to watch their connections as they cheered happily together.
The rest is history, for real. I imagine that most of what I saw on the Jumbotron is what everyone else saw on TV. One difference is that when Bush walked out, people booed so loudly! From what I understand, this was not so audible on television. It seemed far from classy, and I wanted to tell everyone that it might be more appropriate to cheer as he finally steps down from the presidency! The other hilarious difference between the live Inauguration and what was televised is that for the longest time, as the cameras showed Senators and past presidents coming out onto the stage, the speakers were hooked up to some random person’s mic! We heard some hilarious stuff, though I was really hoping for some offensive comment, which never came.
I suppose there’s not much more to say. You heard Obama’s speech, and to be honest, I thought his speech on election night was much more powerful than at Inauguration. Still, he talked and we listened. Afterwards, there was a roar of cheering, and the woman next to me hugged me and my housemates. If anything is a sign of a bright future where we treat our neighbors with kindness and equality, that hug really did it for me! After Obama’s speech, we checked out. It’s not that we didn’t want to hear the poetry and other things that followed, but we were COLD. Real cold. We made it back to the Emmaus house (another LVC house) and crashed. There we ate lunch, watched the parade, and napped before heading home to the Bon house.
DC has had lifted spirits ever since election night. Of course we have a long way to go, but hope and optimism really has to be a part of that since we, the people, must initiate real change!
Next up, I’ll catch you up on changes at Luther Place and in my work life! Phew!!