Observing history again: A student’s trip to the Inauguration
I’m not a fan of waking up at 6 a.m., but for the second inauguration of our first African-American president, I made an exception.
As a native of Florida, I made sure to bundle up – layer upon layer upon layer – to survive the 30 degree weather in Washington D.C. I filled my pockets with snacks and made the drive from my hotel to the Metro station, where trains were running every six minutes. I made it to the National Mall in record time, but then, came the walking.
We walked. And walked. And walked some more.
Streets were barricaded and you weren’t exactly sure where you were supposed to go. I quickly learned to “follow the crowd” and
despite bumping shoulders often, was able to get to the National Mall where the crowds were settling in for Inauguration Day.
Hundreds of volunteers sporting red skullcaps with “57th Presidential Inauguration Committee” embroidered across the front waved merrily to the incoming spectators.
“Welcome!” “How are you?” “Great to see you!” “Where are you from?” “Thanks for coming!”
I felt like I was on the red carpet. So, I did what anyone else would do in my situation – I gave my best Tyra Banks smile, waved back and answered that I was from Tampa, Florida.
I ended up in Section B, which was about three or four blocks from the Capitol. This was pretty close, considering that I had only made it there around 9:30 a.m. The National Mall was filling quickly, so we found a spot where we could best see a Jumbotron displaying the action.
As if to take our mind off the cold, the Jumbotrons placed around the Capitol kept the crowds entertained by playing specially made
videos for the Inauguration by celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. Even Count von Count from Sesame Street made a special appearance for the kids in the crowd, giving a brief lesson on the number of senators,
representatives in the house, etc.
The Count concluded by oh so cryptically counting “four more years”(insert Count’s laugh here), as if he and the entire cast of Sesame Street were paying homage to the popular slogan for President Obama’s second term. I didn’t find this surprising, considering how a certain former presidential candidate was ready to “fire Big Bird,” a close friend to the Count. Thankfully, Big Bird still has a job.
When I got bored with the Jumbotrons, I began to look around. I noticed little black specks on top of some of the surrounding buildings. It wasn’t until those little specks started moving that I realized they were snipers. This sparked a lovely game of “Spot the Sniper” and “Spot the Undercover Cop” that I played for about an hour with my fiancÃ©e. Surprisingly, this made me forget the cold weather for a little while.
As the morning stretched on, different politicians and esteemed guests were brought on to the stage and introduced. The crowd booed when Newt Gingrich was introduced and cheered wildly when BeyoncÃ© and Jay-Z appeared on the stage. Spectators were quiet when different dignitaries were announced, probably because they, myself included, had no clue who these people were, but cheered loudly for the usual suspects – the Bidens, the Clintons, Michelle, Sasha and Malia.
Volunteers handed everyone American flags to wave around during the presentation – serving primarily as tools to poke and smack those within arms’ reach.
But this was a historical moment and no one was going to ruin this for me.
During the President’s Inaugural Address, a hush fell over the crowd. I initially held my breath when he spoke, scared for him and the safety of his family.
After the tragedy in Newtown, I was on edge and hoped no one would harm the President. However, as he continued to speak, I began to relax.
During his address, one could see hope fill the eyes of the crowd when the President mentioned the demographics they associated with or the issues they’re passionate about – immigrants, LGBT community, college students, global warming.
His frequent use of feminine pronouns made me inadvertently swell with pride. Finally, I thought, a President who cares about the “little people,” who truly wants equality and justice for all.
Fitting, considering this day marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and as if that wasn’t enough, landed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as well.
I forgot about the cold for a little while and thought about what was most important in that moment – history was being made, and I had the opportunity to witness it.