Today was truly moving. I witnessed, in pretty close range, the swearing-in of the 44th President of the United States.
We began at 7 am, leaving the hotel at 7:30. We grabbed a quick bagel next door and set off for the madness. We walked from 14th to 1st in order to find the proper gate to enter through based on our tickets. We eventually found our line (for yellow tickets), but after some time found out that our part of the line had merged with the purple ticket line! No wonder we were moving nowhere.
There were people everywhere trying to find the right way to enter – and this was just the ticketed area. It was certainly hectic, but it wasn’t really madness. There was an overwhelming feeling of peacefulness and patience. There was line-cutting, line-mushing, a little pushing, but everyone kept their cool and made things work. There were very few policemen and no staff to organize the lines; they were completely formed and enforced by the people present.
And we did make them work. We eventually got on the right track and around 10:30 am were through security. We were somewhere around half a mile from the front (by my really rough estimation) so we could see well, but everyone on stage was very very tiny. Nevertheless the seats felt like the best in the house.
The day turned beautiful and sunny for Obama and Biden to take their oaths. In front of was the massive Capitol building against the bright blue sky decorated with flags, and behind us millions of people waiting in ticketed sections and in the Mall. Describing my emotions is difficult – the entire scene was so impressive and compelling.
President Bush was present, which I didn’t expect and made me appreciate more than ever of our peaceful transitions of power in the U.S. Obama’s oath of office was the most moving part of the day for me. It is so simple, but so established in our political culture, that he has gone through the proper channels, he takes the proper oath, and he is now our national leader.
Leaving the Inaugural was easier than we expected, but we purposefully avoided the parade route that was packed with crowds trying to get and keep good seats for that event. We were simply too exhausted from a late-night ball and early morning to stay for the parade.
We headed for the hotel, battling off vendors with Obama gear of every variety. Trash was everywhere, in small mountains by the curbs, remnants of the morning crowds waiting for the gates to the Mall to open.
Closer to our hotel we saw a group of 50 or so people literally dancing in the streets with the most gleeful looks on their faces. Those faces pretty much summed up the day.