Thursday, January 22, 2009

FIRED UP! (but where do I go?)

Been a while since my last post... I'm in Washington for the inauguration of President Obama. (I love the way that sounds and how it looks on the page!) This post is one I did for a blog called Seeing the Forest. I'm working on editing pictures I took at Sunday's concert at Lincoln Memorial for which I was lucky enough to have press credentials! (I promise to be more timely than I was last time I promised more soon...)

I had a silver ticket from my congressman that guaranteed me a place to stand in the section behind the reflecting pool on the Mall. It would possibly be close enough to distinguish one person from another on the podium through my binoculars; at the least, it would offer me a view of the proceedings on one of the Jumbotrons, and allow those of us lucky enough to be in that section to bear witness to history being made.

I left my hotel at 7 a.m. to walk the 3 miles to the “silver” gate. (And, yes, the word “pearly” came to mind.) The route took me under the National Mall, through the closed-to-traffic 3rd Street tunnel.

Entering the tunnel:

Under the Mall:


As I neared the gate I saw the line snaking east and I followed it, past one corner, then west to the next, block after block to the end. When I first saw it, it was moving along, but it stopped to a crawl soon after I joined it, midway down a block lined with tour buses, most with engines running, empty save a driver. The fumes were horrible, although one could forgive the smell and feel grateful for a moment or two of heat as the line inched by a running engine. For over an hour, I watched people stream passed me to the end of the line, now stretched out of sight, around many corners. Around 10, the line started to move and as we rounded the last block, it seemed as though people were joining the line from different directions. Rumors that the gate was closed shot through the crowd, which had changed from an orderly 11 block-long (at least) line into a sea of anxious, freezing, weary wanna-bes crushed into a block-long and wide space. Someone started shouting, “Let us in!” and it became a chant with the crowd punching the air with each word with their embossed silver-edged invitations. LET! US! IN! These people—all of them—privileged to be honored by their congressmen and women with what they thought was a guaranteed place at the party, had been shut out by an anonymous ogre at the gate. I recalled Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing the words of Woody Guthrie on Sunday:

A great high wall there tried to stop me
A great big sign there said private property
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me.
Yeah, right. I got a text message from a friend who had a purple ticket. She, too, was reporting gates were closed in front of her, and was headed to the Dirksen Senate Office Building where Senators Kerry and Kennedy had promised a place to watch the proceedings and stay warm to those who couldn’t attend outdoors. It was 10:40. I fought the crowd, which was beginning to feel like the crush on New Year’s Eve in Times Square—something I experienced once long ago and vowed never to do again—for a block and escaped, heading to Capital Hill. I had to go behind the Capitol and down the other side, which took about half an hour (someday I’ll walk it at a normal pace to see how long it really takes) and get through security at the entrance. I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to go and asked if anyone knew where there was a TV. I was directed to a small cafeteria in the basement corridor between the Dirksen and Rayburn Buildings. Gathered there were about 20 people who, for one reason or another, had happened upon the place. All eyes on a small TV that the owner proudly announced she had installed the day before so her customers would be able to watch the ceremony.

Cups and Company:

'Tis a Gift:




Everyone, including me, was happy to be there. We instantly became a community, devoted to sharing this moment in history. We cheered, clapped, prayed, amen’d, and shared smiles and tears. We stood when Obama took the oath of office. When I said, “Bye-bye Bush!” as his helicopter took him away, someone said Alleluiah!

I'd have driven to Washington from Boston just to be with those people at that time, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d have rather been. It was worth a ticket edged in gold to be among the people in that room.
New Friends:


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