We did it. Yes, we knew it would be cold. Yes, we knew the crowds would be insane. Yes, we knew we had to be there.
Back in 1993 a group of us went to Clinton’s inauguration. It was our last January class and we needed to take something so we created an independent study on power and leadership. We visited Sojourners, Church of the Savior, and a faith-based lobbyist from the Methodist Church. We read a couple of books (God the Economist still sits on my shelf), talked over coffee and sat in the cold while watching the events through binoculers while leaning into the group next to us so we could hear their radio. Six of us crashed in the one-bedroom/one-bath apartment of a relative who is probably still in recovery!
This time we went to be a part of history. We took our kids. We remembered binoculars and radios so we wouldn’t have to share. We laughed at how close we got in 1993 and didn’t realize it. We “splurged” and stayed at Meadowkirk where we each had a bed. We slept very little and are still trying to defrost our toes. We will never forget it. My thoughts are still brewing and stewing but here is the “travelogue,” some initial reflections and a few pictures.
We arrived on Friday night and were amazed how vacant the Mall felt on Saturday. We walked around the Capitol, saw where the “important” people would sit and stand during the inauguration, made our way to the Air & Space Museum (to warm up!), and stood at the Washington Monument (K2 is still telling everyone she sees that she touched the Washington Monument!). As we made our way down the Mall, we stood with the throngs at MSNBC – Jeff held K2 up so she could be on TV. Then we came across Harry Smith from CBS interviewing two women wearing American Flag cowboy hats (I’m not making that up!). After he finished interviewing them he turned to us and asked us why we had come. K2 told him that she was in second grade and studying the monuments. He must have been taken by the freckled girl in the pink jacket so off we went to the CBS platform so K2 could have a better view of the monuments. Apparently we were on the Early Show on 1.19.09 but we have not been able to track down a copy.
We met the first of our crew at the We are One concert. What a kick!
Inauguration Day was…what superlative shall I use? Amazing, Awe-inspring, Hope-filled. I was filled with gratitude to have K2 with us watching this event. We had to wake up 3 of the kids who had fallen asleep at our feet to watch it happen. I was standing with some older black women and couldn’t help but wonder what it must have meant to them. I was struck over and over by the number of older black folks who were there. What an experience. K2 was engrossed by the display in the American History Museum about slavery. She can’t quite wrap her head around why it happened and why people are still treated poorly. “You mean S and K and I couldn’t have played together?”
These next two were taken by Emily – thanks friend.
A couple of memories not to be forgotten:
- The crowd was incredible – in both size and graciousness. Even with the long lines and close quarters, people were polite, courteous, and friendly. There was a sense that we were in this together and we could make or break it. I know that was not universal.
- “Thanks for coming.” Everywhere we went, when we would offer our thanks, Smithsonian employees, Metro folks, security and police officers would say “thanks for coming.” Amazing. The only place we felt unwelcome was Fahrney’s. And we were planning on buying pens as our momento! Update: I had sent a note to Fahrney’s not expecting any sort of response. I received an email tonight with a very sincere apology and a gift certificate is in the mail. Wow.
- “Please be seated.” The first time Feinstein said this from the podium the crowd around us let out quite a laugh. And where shall we sit? We were, however, quite ready for all requests to stand! They have obviously not been taught the line “…if you are able.”
- Our favorite chotsky was this. They smell like hope:
I’ve rambled on long enough. I have more to say but I’ll do that in the next post. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience it, for this country in which we live, and for the friends that gathered to share it.