Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Inauguration Week Experiences in DC

My 15-year-old daughter and I had a wonderful time during our stay in DC from Saturday to Wednesday. We stayed at the home of a very nice elderly couple who offered a room for rent through their church, saw a college friend who came over from Baltimore with his family, went to the National Zoo, attended a "bash" at the Air & Space Museum sponsored by the California Democratic Party, saw the Holocaust, Natural History and International Spy Museums and National Archives.

On Inauguration Day, the whole atmosphere was one of euphoria all day long, with everyone realizing they were there to witness history and being all nice to each other. There were loud cheers by the crowd at many moments during the swearing-in ceremony. It was the only day of its kind in history, but I hope that we can have more days that approach this kind of euphoria in the months and years ahead with the Obama administration.

We had "silver" tickets, which entitled us to stand in the silver section on the west side of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There were many thousands of ticket holders who never made it past the excruciatingly SLOW security gates because of the complete LACK of crowd control, signage, bullhorns, information, authorities and staff people and not enough metal detectors. This affected the purple, blue and silver gates. I pity the poor purple ticket holders who were stuck like sardines in a tunnel for hours with NO assistance whatsoever.

By going to an alternate security gate on the parade route (no tickets required), we waited in a crowd for only a bit less than two hours and finally made it in at about 11:00 a.m. There were only four metal detectors for the thousands seeking entrance there. We never made it into the silver ticketed section, a mere 30 yards away, because of police and barricades. We were across from the Canadian Embassy at 4th and Pennsylvania, where our view of the Capitol was blocked by the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. There were speakers across the street that were providing the NPR live commentary about the proceedings.

But using binoculars and a view that was partially blocked by tree branches, we watched a Jumbotron that was next to the Capitol lawn, then waited over 3 hours to see the parade and Obama's motorcade. The "crowd" was only one person deep on our side of the street, with three police officers lining Pennsylvania Ave. for every spectator in the area we were standing.

Then as the presidential limo approached, my video camera ran out of space to record (argh!). But then Michelle and Sasha waved at us, which was memorable. I could see Barack waving on the other side of the car. A block after they passed us, Michelle and Barack got out of the car to walk.

It was so cold, before and after this, that we left and did not stay for the rest of the parade. It was obvious that it would not finish until after dark. But as it turned out, because of all the police barricades, we had to walk up Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument to get out of the secured area, and the entire parade was lined up on that street waiting for the start. A few marching bands were practicing.

My daughter and I bought some souvenirs from the vendors and then got on the still-packed Metro train for the ride back to the National Zoo stop, where we had stayed nearby.

It was for us an experience of a lifetime that we will always hold close.