Five AM came to quickly. We winterized ourselves. Like we were back in Fairbanks, Alaska winterized. LOL Layers upon layers upon layers. It was going to be a long frigid day. Dad drove us to the commuter bus meeting spot. We boarded the bus and took off for the half hour drive to the metro station. Easy Peasy. The metro station, the green line, will take us strait into the belly of the beast.
The metro itself was no different than the 1 or 9 in New York City or the Central Line in London or any Tokyo line. It was crowded - like WWII boxcar crowded. Unfortunately only about 1% of the people were commuter babies. The other 99% had never traveled in such close quarters. They did not know the "rules of commuting". LOL 1) When you get on the train, walk to the center of the car. 2) Every available space is occupied by a warm body. 3) The train is not full until your nose is in someone's arm pit. LOL
We were supposed to exit at L'Enfant Plaza, but they had closed it due to way to many bodies. We made the executive decision to overshoot and get off at the next stop as opposed to getting off at the stop before L'Enfant. It was a shorter walk to the mall area. Well, that's what we reckoned. Passing thru L'Enfant we could see masses of bodies shuffling towards the exits. A slow undulating wave of humanity. It was a precursor of things to come.
We hit our stop and exited the train. Topside we were turned around. We had maps. That helped. We followed the crowd. First this way. Then that. To one dead end. Then another road block. It reminded me of the scene in Spinal Tap when the band couldn't find the way to the stage. They just walked around in circles. The cops were no help. They were only concerned with their little patch of real estate. They tried. I got my information by eavesdropping on a hispanic gentleman engaged in a mobile phone conversation. Lucky my scant knowledge of Spanish was in the forefront of my brain! The police were directing people toward the parade route. It was only 0830. We wanted to see the swearing in. Our charge became how to get to the mall area. I felt like I was in a video game, roaming around a huge map without unlimited ammo or life. LOL At least I could "pick up items" to help me with my journey!
We made our way down to 3rd and 14th. This was a gated area that let in ticket holders. SCORE!!! We were close. The lovely policewoman told us to get to the general public viewing area in the mall we should take the car tunnel. That was a walk. Reminded me of a zombie movie. At least these were slow, lumbering zombies - to many layers of clothing to move swiftly. Upon exiting the car tunnel there were circus barkers telling everyone which way to go. It was a festive atmosphere. Roskilde, Graspop, Rock im Park/Rock am Ring, Donington.... Now imagine those festivals with 100x more people! And without the drunk and disorderly.
As we neared the mall area, the throngs of people became thick like molasses, immovable like a concrete wall. We had to snake through the crowd to get where we wanted to go. It was if we were Emmitt Smith moving in super slow motion, dodging defensive linesmen. People were in the trees to get a better view of the crowd. They were standing on block fencing. Standing on the porto potty's as well.
Our timing was pristine. We found our way to the lawn just in front of the Washington Monument before the first words were uttered commencing the inauguration of our 44th president. The atmosphere was electric. Their was such a vibe of peace and astonishment and unbridled giddyness . . . the love in's of the 60s and Height Ashbury paled in comparison. The air was alive with good will and promise.
Our perch did not allow us to see any of the screens. The closest we came to seeing the swearing in was me on my tippy toes, hand outstretched with my Canon SX10 IS with it's 20x optical zoom precariously trained to the distant screen, my viewfinder angled down so that Walt, Greg, and who ever else was behind me could see. It was comical. We made friends.
I don't remember the actual speech. I just remember the voice of confidence. The voice that inspired so many. You could no longer feel the cold.
Then began the long arduous trek back home. Us and two million plus other people. To say the transit system was overwhelmed is an understatement. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get thru L'Enfant to the subway platform. At least 6 people passed out around us because of the heat. They didn't have the heat on in the shoppes, just that when you have thousands of people all radiating 98.6 degrees, it becomes a bit unbearable. Luckily everyone was still in good spirits. There was some rumbling, but it's expected and understandable. We felt like cattle being corralled and pushed down shoots to the slaughter house. Most of the time was spent standing still. Then shuffle a few steps. Stop. Rest. Repeat. It was a slow arduous process. Not fun in the slightest. Thankfully, we hit the platform and could breath.
The trains back were not packed. They were full, but manageable. The bus was waiting for us at the end of the green line. We only had to wait about ten minutes before the bus ferried us back to the meeting point. From there, Dad met us with bottles of water and a heated vehicle. Once home we feasted on home made soup. Nice and warm for the tummy. We took a rest and hit the road north, bound for New Jersey. We rolled in at 2310 hours. Not bad time.
Over the weekend I finally got to sit down and SEE the swearing in and Obama's speech. It still moved me. I'm very happy that I was a part of history. It is a great honour to say ... " I.WAS.THERE." But next inauguration I'm watching from the warmth and comfort of my living room!
Oh, I almost forgot!! The pictures! LOL
These were taken by Walt, Greg, and me. Hope you enjoy them. -smooches-