You saw the massive crowd in national-media video. What was it like to be part of it – not just during the ceremony, but for hours before?
Our first report comes from Carter and Dan, the Fauntleroy residents who’ve been sharing their stories from DC the past few days:
We’re expecting quite a bit from our new President. As he said, we need to sacrifice, and we felt like we did today. We celebrated with a record two million other ice cubes.
After waking up at 2:45 AM to catch the first train out from Arlington, we squished our way on a packed Metro. After boarding the 4:19 AM to DC, I was nose to nose with a complete stranger who reeked of last night’s Inaugural Ball. The stations were packed and the platforms were heaving. Onto the street from the Metro, there we met the wall of humanity – stuck. But at least we were warm. That would be the last time until 1:30PM. It became a sea of people that couldn’t move. Everyone was polite and respectful. They were all on a high, almost a spiritual one. Somehow we all found ways to part for emergency and security vehicles. I was smacked by a side mirror – not once but twice.
All of a sudden it gave way. The crowds forced the temporary fences down. As a result, there was no security check. We could have taken a back pack, a chair, and hell, a charcoal grille. But no. With our detailed preparations we had already decided to go for broke and stand at the front of the un-ticketed attendees blockade at 4th street and The National Mall. That was behind the 240,000 with tickets (standing and seated). At first, it was a struggle, then as everyone’s excitement waned with the cold, it was easy to get to the front barricade. Soon it became; where can the six of us get warm. By now, it was 5:30AM and six hours to go. Thank god we packed energy bars, fruit, and snacks and all the Hand and Foot Warmers we could fit in our pockets. Now, no one cared about being in front, the Jumbotron was just fine.
The sun rose and the temperature dropping 10 degrees! And the wind picked up. Later we heard it was 16 degrees with the windchill. The huddles that formed gave roving reporters time and space to mingle – and interview. We all already know what this day means to everyone. It was just great to hear their words and emotions in person. A little guy ran up to me and said “Can we interview you?” I said sure. We went over the the crew of a half a dozen and a big fat camera. The interviewer stuck the sponge on a stick in my face and I looked at him and said “You’re, you’re the guy . . . from TV 4!” He, ignored me and started peppering me with questions in an English accent. They seemed designed to get me to say some silly answers. Then, it dawned on me who it was! John Oliver, correspondent for The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart. So, if I should make it on tonight’s broadcast, forgive me for: the Joe Biden having a knack for inserting his foot into various orifices and his wife’s big mouth.
Somehow, the cold was swept aside. Everyone (who had stayed) leapt to attention when the Swearing In ceremony started. Thousands of little flags had been distributed by The Boy Scouts of America. (Mine’s already on eBay)
The crowd was vocal and there was a lot praising going on. It was crowd of all ages and only one demographic wasn’t well represented – old white people (excusing me). A woman next to me started up a conversation. She was an African-American ex-Air Force wearing a picture of her deceased father. She had to bring him there for this moment. There was no more cold for a while. Many were overwhelmed with emotion and hugging in tears. One older caucasian woman from Oklahoma (Okies were well represented this week) told me of how she was arrested twice protesting torture by the last administration, once with Cindy Sheehan. She said that both times the arresting cops were completely sympathetic to them allowing pizza to be delivered to the prison bus. Dan and I felt apart of it all. When Sasha and Malia were introduced it was as loud as any screams President Obama received. The Boo-Birds came out when the now Ex-President was introduced but there was a lot of shouting of “Be Respectful!”. That surprised me.
It didn’t take long for people to start leaving once the actual swearing-in was done. After a long line in a nearby Starbucks, we went back out to hang around a bit. The Metro lines were clear down the block and not moving. I used Starbucks WiFI to find out why online. We heard someone had fallen on the tracks. So, we walked the 4 1/2 miles back to our hotel in Arlington . . . .
One last photo:
Thanks to Carter and Dan for their reports from D.C. – whatever we hear from our other “correspondents,” we’ll share with you later!