My "little" brother - M's Uncle Jude - attended the festivities in Washing today. He sent this dispatch to us, and has kindly agreed to let me post it. Enjoy. (He took some good pix, which I will try to upload tomorrow. Right now I need to put Jude's nephew to bed!!).
I wrote a brief narrative about my experience today, mostly to help myself remember it. As I am not generally much of a blogger or journalist, please feel quite free to skip straight to the pictures I took, which you will find attached.
My Inaugration Day
Today I was part of history. I was unable to secure tickets to the seated section of the Inaugural Swearing In Ceremony. The cold weather and huge crowds presented logistical challenges that made me hesitant to even attempt to attend. For various reasons, though, I felt compelled to go. As one woman's sign said today, "The Future is watching."
I drove in to Arlington (across the Potomac from DC) and stayed in a hotel last night. After a mostly sleepless night interspersed with some bizarre dreams, I woke up ready to get down to the Mall. I packed in a caloric breakfast in hopes of keeping myself warm, then headed over to catch the shuttle. On the way in, I wanted to save myself the 3.5 mile hike in the 20 degree weather. With the Metro rail cars all full and the buses missing, I hailed a cab and had him drop me off at Arlington Cemetery. I then walked across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, which comes out right behind the Lincoln Memorial. The Boundary Channel and the Potomac were both frozen solid, which I guess I should have expected. Fortunately, the weather didn't prevent a generally cheerful crowd from being in the mood to celebrate.
On the way across the Memorial Bridge, it occurred to me that I could climb the Lincoln Memorial so that I could get a better vantage while picking where I would stand. From there, I decided that the Washington Monument was looking lonely, so I hoofed it past the frozen Reflecting Pool and staked out a spot. I nestled up right next to one of the flags which encircle the Monument, but after nearly 2 hours, I finally conceded that being on a hill was not wise. I was also unable to hear the speakers or see the various jumbotrons screens very well. At any rate, the wind chill was too much, and it finally drove me to retreat back down to a more conservative spot.
The second spot where I decided to stand was across the road from the World War II Memorial, because there was an empty patch of grass right in front of one of the big screens. The people were friendly, and we anxiously awaited the remaining couple of hours before the actual events began. During this time, all of the presiding attendees filed in on camera and were announced.
When Bush 43 was shown on camera, the crowd made a point of booing him soundly. "GO BACK TO TEXAS" was my contribution. It was probably bad form (and was pointed out as such by Chris Matthews, among others), but given the political proclivities of the audience, I can't imagine anyone was surprised. Cheney came wheeling out in a wheel-chair, which drew an "Oooooooh" from the crowd. Sort of half "boo" and half "ewww". I actually found myself spontaneously hissing at the appearance of Bush-41, which caught me off-guard. I don't think I've ever hissed at anyone like that before.
The Supreme Court Justices came out to deafening silence, which I found interesting. Perhaps that was because the only name they actually announced was that of Chief Justice John Roberts, who is understandably a bit unpopular with most of those around me. Al Gore got a pretty big round of applause. The biggest cheers were for Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. The cheers for Barry (okay, Barack), were in a league of their own. The crowd around me broke into various cheers with little or no provokation. "YES WE CAN"; "¡Sí, se puede!"; "Fired UP! Ready to go!"; "O-BA-MA"; you get the idea. What with all the dignitaries and Congress-critters filing in, the Vice-Presidential swearing-in got started nearly an hour and a half late.
In the interim, we heard probably four different versions of Simple Gifts and that's not including a re-arrangement by John Williams and performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. I think I speak for the entire crowd in expressing my gratitude for Biden not being allowed to give a speach. All other considerations aside, it was too darned cold for long-winded rhetoric today. Once Joe the Biden was sworn in, I felt like it was finally real.
When Barack Hussein Obama II finally stepped up to be sworn in on Lincoln's own Bible, it seemed very surreal to me. All the waiting and freezing my toes off, and at last I was going to get to see what Dr. King dreamed become reality. After a somewhat awkwardly administered swearing in, I took some pictures for "The Moment", though none turned out particularly well. There were lots of fists in the air, and yelling. This part seemed almost anti-climactic, after all the waiting. He just repeated after Justice Roberts, and all the sudden I realized we had a new President. At least he gave a decent speech afterward. I was somewhat perturbed to find him giving a relatively down-to-earth speech compared to what I had come to expect from an orator of his powerful standing. Ultimately, I think what he wanted to convey was a collective rolling-up of America's sleeves. Working together to make it work, if you will. Nevertheless, as I listened to Barack's first speech as our 44th President, I found tears freezing to my face. Somehow it was exactly the speech we needed at that time.
Once the President's speech was over, I was in a hurry to get clear of the freezing Mall. Despite my desire for the sanctuary of a warm building, I decided to walk the 3.5 miles back to my hotel. Maybe I needed some time to think. The Jefferson Memorial over-looking the frozen Tidal Basin made for a somewhat somber walk, which I think was a good contrast to the festive mood of the crowd during the ceremonies. I took a shortcut through the Pentagon's parking lot, smiled to the frozen MPs who were standing guard, and finally crossed the street back to my hotel.
When I turned the heat on in my car, the agony in my feet announced that they had regained at least some small amount of circulation. I took this to be a good sign, but I decided right then that it will be a long time before I attend another Inauguration. Unless they move it to April... DC is beautiful in April, when the cherry blossoms are blooming.