As most of you know, we live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. From the moment that Barack Obama first announced his candidacy, I told the girls that we would be attending this historic inauguration in person. And Tuesday morning of this week, we were there with close to 2 million of our American brothers and sisters to witness arguably the most significant historical event of my lifetime up close and personally.
Because of the unprecedented crowds expected for the inauguration, we moved into Georgetown on Monday night. Friends of ours were kind enough to lend us their lovely home in Georgetown, in spite of the fact that they had been offered BIG money for it! If you don’t know, Georgetown is about a 2 mile walk from the National Mall.
We got up at 6:00 a.m., quickly dressed in MANY warm layers (picture heading for the ski slopes) and hurriedly headed to the local Starbucks on our way towards the Capitol. As we came out of Starbucks, the soon-to-be President’s motorcade sped by us on his way to that morning’s prayer service. The closer we got to our destination, the more people we found ourselves walking beside until we were part of a crowd that completely filled the otherwise quiet streets of the city. It was eerie to see the streets of D.C. with absolutely NO car traffic whatsoever! As you can see from the picture, as we entered the Mall area, the sun was just rising. My eyes repeatedly filled with tears as I took in the sights of the many, many joyful people surrounding the historic monuments as we all moved closer to the Capitol. The red hatted volunteers had clearly been instructed to greet the crowds warmly and that they did! As strangers greeted one another, many of us agreed that indeed THIS was going to be a very, very good day.
As we walked towards the Capitol, they began to replay Sunday’s We Are One concert on the Jumbotrons that lined the Mall. One moment that I found particularly moving was the when the National Anthem began to play from the beginning of that broadcast and the many soldiers who lined the area stopped whatever they had been doing and uniformly took the position that you see in the photo (click on it to make it larger.) In the photo you can also see that there were many, many, many potties on the Mall that day. In fact, we later agreed that there may have actually been more than they needed! As the owner of the smallest bladder in my family, I was very pleased with this decision by the planning committee!
We finally decided to stop moving forward when we found ourselves about mid-way down the Mall. For those of you who are familiar with this area, we were between the Smithsonian Castle and the Musuem of Natural History. Although we could see the Capitol building clearly, we could only really see the staging area with binoculars. However, the enormous Jumbotrons lining the expanse that is called the National Mall made it easy to experience the entire ceremony like you were in the front row. When we had picked our spot, we settled down to wait. We had filled the pockets of our ski jackets with newspapers, books, playing cards and snacks. In addition, the girls had each downloaded a movie onto their Ipods.
The energy in the crowd was incredible! We met people who had traveled from all over the country to be here for this momentous occasion. People of every race and generation were represented that day and, in spite of the cold, everyone was in a great mood. For those who also enjoy people watching, this was a front row seat to the best show in town. As they began to introduce the dignitaries entering the grandstands, people started to get more and more energized and excited. We were all on our feet by then and would remain on our feet for the rest of the day.
I could give you all the details of each moment as it unfolded from there, but I am sure that anyone reading this was watching the whole thing right along with us that morning. It was a series of moments that I will never forget. It is a morning that I hope my children will relish telling their grandchildren about someday. By then, I hope the novelty and import of a person of African-American heritage being sworn in as president of the United States is a common place occurence. I pray so. But this time…this first time…it was a really important, transformational moment in the life of our country. As a person with white skin, I can only imagine and attempt to understand the emotion that I saw on the face of the elderly African-American woman who stood next to me, tears streaming down her face. I would guess that in her lifetime, she experienced first hand the hostility and hatred that builds separate drinking fountains and posts “white only” signs. I don’t think we can overestimate the healing that took place to our collective psyche on Tuesday morning when our nation entrusted Barack Obama with the leadership of this country. I just hope and pray that we can take this moment and build on it into the future.
After the ceremony was over, we began the much more difficult task of leaving the Mall. Although we were trying to go North and West towards Georgetown, it quickly became apparent that we were only going to be allowed to go South. After a lovely detour by the Jefferson Memorial and then the World War II memorial, we finally found ourselves heading back to Georgetown to warm up and get something to eat. We had no problem driving out of the city and were back at home by 4:30 that afternoon. Obviously, we skipped the parade which lasted well past dark!
I have been talking about my support for Barack Obama here on this blog for well over a year. I find him to be an inspirational leader unlike any I have seen, listened to or read about in my lifetime. Based on the sheer enormity of what happened in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, it appears that I am not alone. Whether you voted for him or not, I believe Americans are joining together in wishing him well and praying for his success. I appreciate that he continually reminds us that this is not about him, but about all of us joining together and believing that we can contribute to our collective well-being. That we all have a responsibilty to be part of the solution. As a Christian, that begins by committing to pray daily for him and his administration as they begin this journey. Will you join me?