Sunday, January 25, 2009

Inauguration Day - One of the most memorable days of my life

Going to the inauguration has to be one of the highlights and more memorable days of my life.I am so happy that my friend Elaine suggested that we go. Of course, having family living in northern Virginia helped since all the hotels were booked. 

The day before the inauguration, we went into the city to meet friends (Donnell and Katya)  up from Miami for the festivities.  Donnell graciously invited us to a reception given by her congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her constituents at the Library of Congress.
After the reception, we took the opportunity to walk down by the Capitol building and stake out where we should try to position ourselves for the next day.  While we out walking past the day, Miss Aretha Franklin was rehearsing her inauguration song. What a treat that was to hear her person. It gave me goose pimples. 

The Big Day - January 20
Before I relive the day, I have to tell you that Elaine and I both got about 2 hours of sleep. We were staying out in the guest house which is isolated from the house so it can be a little creepy. 
Around 11:30, I heard noises downstairs and thought that Pop Pop had come to his office to work. It's plausible given that he does business in Russia, right. I fell back into a half sleep and was woken up some more noises. At this point, I am delirious and unlike other people who walk into danger, I am thinking well, if there is a serial killer downstairs, come and get us. I was still alive a few minutes later so I guess we were safe and again I try to go back to sleep, to no avail. 

Around 2:30 am,  right before the alarm was supposed to go off, I see a shadow coming up the stairs and I am thinking it's Pop Pop coming up to tell us we are late and we need to get going to the metro.  It turns out to be Elaine.  She had gone downstairs because I was snoring so loudly and the noises I heard were her walking around downstairs.  

Moving on to the big day, we drove to the Vienna metro stop leaving the house at 3:30 am to catch the first train of the day that was to depart at 4am. The Vienna  stop is the very last stop on  the orange line in Virginia. It was a smart move on our part to have someone drive us (thanks, Dave) and not park the car since there was a line to get into the parking lot. 

Once we got into the station, there was already a  line of people waiting to get into the metro station. Just as we were walking into the gate, the metro attendant told us to stop and wait. Don't you just love obnoxious people who refuse to listen. While the attendant was off helping people buy tickets someone pushed the gate open and we snuck through the turnstiles. All we could here was, "Stop, close the gate, you can't come through yet".  Seeing that the train was packed, we waited for the second train coming up the track. As we walked down to the end of the 2nd train, I noticed that the last car in the first train was half empty so we scooted across. Lo and behold, we  actually made it onto the 4am train as planned. Yeah!!!

The scene  as we came to each subsequent stops become more surreal as only 1 or 2 people could actually squeeze onto the train and by the time we reached the fifth stop, there was no way anyone could get on.

Our goal was to go the L'Enfant Plaza stop since that is the open stop closest to the mall. Good and bad idea. Yes, it was close but  L'Enfant Plaza is a major hub in which four metro lines converge. The scene to get out the station was a mad house and it was only 5am. There were hundreds of people all trying to get through 4 turnstiles. We got outside and there more masses of people.  We found ourselves at the gate to the mall at 5:30 with another 1 1/2 hours to wait.  This seemed nuts. After about 20 minutes, someone with some sense or someone who did not want unruly mob opened the gate and the people started streaming in. 

 This was truly the scariest part of the day. People in a hurry to get a good place to view the capitol starting pushing. You hear about these things but I have never experienced it. I was not afraid for myself but for 5 year old daughter, Alex who literally disappeared from my sight as the crowd starting really pushing to get in. She started crying hysterically. I am had fears she was going to get trampled but luckily this woman next to me starting pushing back and screaming at the people behind us.  Thank god this did not last long and we were through the gate. 

Once we got in, we ran into the section we had staked out and starting looking for the jumbotron. We knew yesterday, that we would never be able to see the Capitol from the first non ticketed section. We found space near a tree. 
Our location. Look for the third circle on the left down from the Capitol. We are in the crowd south of 4th street. The article is correct, there was lots of space in the section due to the police limiting people into each section for which I am eternally grateful because it allowed us some breathing room. 

All I can say is that were outside trying to stay warm from 5:30 am - 1pm. Around 9, they started playing the We are One concert which the crowd excited. People started cheering at the site of Obamas and Biden families. We all sang and cheered the singers coming on. Or at the least jumping up and down to stay warm. 

Then the networks started showing the motorcade and everyone being seated in the stands. Most of the intro was close captioned which really was odd, it was like watching C-Span, all pictures and sounds but no color commentary. 

Then the main event, you could feel the excitement in the crowd and all the flags waving and the cheering. I cried and teared up through most of the swearing. I really did think about how far we had come and only wished my father was alive to witness this day. 

This truly was memorable event in my lifetime and will never be forgotten.

That said, after the speech, we and 2 million people were off to get out of the cold. Imagine all those people streaming onto the metro, NOT. 

We ended up in the Air and Space Musuem trying to warm and avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, the station was closed and crowds followed us. It took us hours to get home since we got separate from Elaine and 2 out 3 stations I tried were closed. 

The only good thing was that we ended up at the South Capitol station and we saw Henry Waxman  and Ruth Bader Ginsberg leaving the luncheon. Yes they drove themselves in case you were wondering. 

Celebrity sightings aka celebrities they travel like regular poor folk
Saw Spike Lee day after the inauguration coming out of Amtrak
 Acela room 

Saw Ron Insana (MSNBC) financial analyst on the Amtrak back to NYC. Pic for those of you have no idea who he is. 

PICS are in subsequent postings


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