Inauguration - At Last

Photo from AP

January 20, 2009

We joined almost 2 million people in Washington, DC to witness the inauguration in a day we will always remember. It was the largest crowd ever assembled in Washington, DC. We left at 6:30 am for the Metro Station, which was packed. Some stations were closed, but we managed to get to the security gate where we waited in a huddled mass for 2.5 hours to pass through security. There were thousands of police, military personnel, and DHS agents securing the event and thousands more in the Metro stations assisting people and controlling the flow of the crowds.

We never noticed the cold while we waited because there were so many people packed together. (And we had layers of clothes, hand warmers, and scarves.) A young man had his blackberry and led a game of "Presidential Pursuit" shouting out questions and quizzing everyone making the time pass more quickly. At one point the police told every to hold their tickets in the air and for anyone without a ticket to turn back. Everyone cheered and waved their tickets. After we cleared security, we got a perfect spot with a clear view of the ceremony, giant screen, and no people blocking the view in front of us. Behind us the crowd stretched for over two miles in the National Mall. People stood on statues and barriers for better views. Streets were closed to vehicles, but were blanketed with people.

There were distant chants from far behind us, "Obama, Obama, Obama", and "Yes we did!" The crowd cheered as President Carter, President Clinton, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Colin Powell were introduced. There was thunderous applause for Joe Bidden and family, Malia and Sasha, Michele Obama, and of course, screams and cheers for the introduction of Barack Obama. There were loud boos when President George W. Bush was introduced and people near us led the crowd in singing, "Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye." (I never boo anyone, but understand why the crowd did.)

The music was great - from the Marine Band to the choir. Aretha Franklin was amazing, and there was absolute silence when Yo-Yo Ma and the others performed a hauntingly beautiful piece.

After Barack Obama was sworn in people hugged each other, jumped up and down, cried, screamed, and waved American flags. His much anticipated inaugural speech was moving and many around us were crying as he spoke. Nani said the best part of the entire inaugural trip was hearing President Obama speak. She never took her eyes off of him. From the speech:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
The inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander spoke to every person.

The crowd was truly diverse and representative of our American family. American Indians dressed in Native costumes banged drums. There were people in wheelchairs and on crutches. There were tiny babies wrapped in blankets and elderly who braved the cold, crowds and long lines. Families drove from New England and California. Everyone expressed a vision of optimism and hope for our country.

I talked to an elderly woman from illinois who was dressed in a full length fur coat and dressy hat. She told me she was thrilled to be witnessing the moment when Dr. King's dream came true. We met people from all over the country and listened to their stories, hopes and dreams. All wanted to be there to witness history.

Leaving the Inauguration was a challenge. We shuffled behind thousands of people over the streets littered with paper, lost scarves and gloves towards the Federal Center Metro Station. It took over two hours to get inside the station! Three trains too over-crowded to take more passengers left the station before we finally could squeeze into one. The Metro reported that over 1 million passengers rode trains, breaking the record set the previous day.

It took over an hour to get to the airport because so many streets were closed. We just made our plane!

Read what world leaders had to say about the inauguration.

Thank you again to our special friend for the tickets (Nani adores you and said you look like Richard Geer), to Nousher, and to Mozhid for the wonderful hospitality, gifts and kindness.

I took more video than photos, but here are a few photos: