WASHINGTON, 4:47 p.m. — The wonderful thing about these massive public events is how it brings so many strangers together to share in one common experience. The people that I met today on the mall certainly demonstrated that, being extremely friendly to everyone, even when smashed against each other in the streets going in and out of the mall.
One individual was particularly interesting: a Mexican born immigrant of over 50 years traveled all the way from Los Angeles to D.C. by bus alone, so that he could celebrate his 72nd birthday on the mall during the inauguration with two million strangers.
Others: two people from different parts of the country who met in Baghdad. One was a military service person, the other, a contractor. Now, more than a year after, they meet back up in D.C. for the inauguration.
Now, the honeymoon is over and the real work begins. Let’s hope that this feeling of unity and optimism persists well into the new administration.
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama will be inaugurated today as the 44th president of the United States. The News is here on the National Mall to live-blog the ceremony.
12:13 p.m. | The Inaugural Prayer said that we are “United by our freedom and justice for all.”
But perhaps more impressive than this unity, is the unity that Barack Obama has already, less than an hour into his presidency, has given over two million people that surround me.
I turned to my friend and I told her that I feel like I know Barack Obama, that he is a friend. It seems, from others’ calling his first name and cheering for Michelle, Malia and Sasha that they feel the same. Tears are flowing and it seems that everyone truly believes the words that our president is saying and the promises that he is making.
12:11 p.m. | Waving flags, screaming people and huge smiles as Obama appeared on the screen. He processes down the hallway with the very confidence that got him elected. An expression of calm, collected excitement is clear on his face as he prepares to be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Words of awe and cheers of “Oh-ba-ma!” in the crowds.
“There is nothing to say — we’re in a moment of history,” Carmen Chambers ’12 said.
12:05 p.m. | As soon as George W. Bush ’68 was introduced, the crowd surrounding me stooped to the level of kids at a high school basketball game and started singing “na-na-na-na, goodbye.” It makes me question why party politics has made it such that the only way to support one politician is by disrespecting another.
11:14 a.m. | General laughter from the audience when the announcer asked us to “please be seated.” This experience gives a new meaning to the term “standing room only.”
11:00 a.m. | After about a half-hour walk from Georgetown University I have finally arrived at The Mall. We had no trouble entering from the waterfront side which was surprisingly open.
Everyone is bundled to avoid bitter winds. Patrons are lined against the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The JumboTron screens will be the only chance that I have of watching the Inauguration. The sea of patriotically-dressed people eagerly awaiting the action is, hopefully, tight enough to provide body heat for the rest of the morning.
“It actually does make me want to cry when I think of all the patriotism and the hope,” Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein ’12 said.
WASHINGTON, 8:25 a.m. — Entering the silver gate entrance onto the mall was a chaotic process. The atmosphere, though exhilirating, was also mildly warlike. Police cars on every corner, choppers dotting the sky, militant chants and the occasional primal scream. If you didn’t know better, Obama’s inauguration could seem like a conflict zone — if only everyone weren’t smiling.
As the gates opened and ticketed inauguration-goers swarmed onto the mall, one older black man, bundled up in his Obama sweatshirt, shouted: ”free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I’m free at last!” The crowds raced toward the best viewing spots, climbed onto trees and unfolded their blankets. Then we stopped — the mad dash was over — and now we are left to wait. The sun has risen over Capitol Hill, reflecting off the ivory columns of the rotunda, and behind us, the Washington monument glints majestically.
WASHINGTON, 8:22 a.m. — The gates appear to have opened but crowds have only gotten bigger. People are booing at a group that cut the line. There are no police here and it is chaos. The lines have disolved into a massive group of people pushing and shoving each other.
WASHINGTON, 6:22 a.m. — We parked. Finally. It took about 45 minutes of sitting in the parking lot and then another 15 or so to unload the food. We all filed off the bus to grab bagels, fruit, granola bars, chips, cookies and water bottles, stuffing our pockets and cursing the “no bags allowed” rule.
After about two minutes of excited chatter in the parking lot, we got back on the bus. It’s far too cold to be standing out there right now. I’m not really sure what’s going on but apparently there’s a shuttle that’s going to take us closer to the Mall.
Right now I’m just trying to figure out how much time it’s going to take us to get back here later today and how we are going to find our bus among the thousands of identical coaches. Wish me luck.
OUTSIDE BALTIMORE, 4:00 a.m. — About five hours ago I left New Haven on one of the Af-Am house’s buses with approximately 70-80 other Yalies. Now, we’re stopped to refuel at a Maryland rest stop just north of Baltimore, along with almost a dozen other tour buses.
All of the rest stop’s shops — Starbucks, Cinnabon, Sbarro and the like — are still open and serving long lines of customers, weary looking travelers with little obvious in common except for the Obama clothing worn by all.
Just as quickly as the crowds materialized, suddenly they were gone again, continuing on towards D.C. ”I feel like we’re going to Mecca,” remarked one of my traveling companions.
WASHINGTON, 12:35 a.m. — I feel like I’m on a pilgrimage.
The notion started when Adam (another YDNer) and I were heading down Saturday morning on the train. As Adam shared with me what he would tell the new President, given five seconds, we passed Obama’s whistle-stop train. Everyone rushed to one side (not ours, sadly) of our train to see Obama going through Wilmington. Our target was clear, and enthusiasm rose high.
From that point on we were joined in our pilgrimage by crowds of people standing on the side of the railroad tracks. The biggest collected at the train stations and towns, but also families and single people just standing out in the middle of the woods or cornfields, parking lots and highschools. They waited expectantly, American flags in hand, for what would only be a glance of a man whom we all know. (more…)
WASHINGTON, 9:30 p.m. — With under 12 hours to go until the gate of the Capitol ground open to visitors for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, the city is getting crowded. Metro trains around the city are nearly full, leading many to wonder how the system will hold up tomorrow.
As one can imagine security around the district is tight. Metro stations, like everything else in the city, are subject to close if the crowds get too large, or for security reasons. If you are traveling to DC tomorrow be prepared to alter your travel plans.
For those lucky enough to have tickets to the inauguration, you may only enter through the gate printed on the ticket. And don’t forget to check the list of banned items.