22 January 2009
First Pictures, Now The Story
It all started at 7am, when fiver weary troopers arose to toast, juice and coffee (minus the coffee for me) before beginning our trek down to the National Mall. One said trooper had a ticket, so she veered off in an effort to get closer. The rest of us rendezvoused with 9 other trooper-like folks and continued on our journey.
Brilliantly, the organizers funneled everyone onto one main drag, which kept foot traffic moving. Things were full but calm. Overwhelming but reserved. We managed to canoodle all 13 of us into a perfect spot just steps from the Washington Monument. A jumbo-tron was just to our left, the dome of the Capitol visible on the horizon. Three hours to go and every square inch of space is nearly full.
An hour passes and the freezing temperatures start to take a toll on our toes. Fortunately, people were beginning to arrive, which allowed for collective "cheering and booing, depending on who emerged. Actually, only one person solicited boos. I'll leave that to you to determine.
Every time they go to a shot of Obama, his motorcade or someone who looks like Obama, people go crazy! The environment is electric. 11:30am finally rolls around. President Elect Obama emerges. It's go time.
This is the moment where everything starts to feel like it's happening in slow motion. Invocation creepy, as Warren gutturally expounds the names of the first children: "Sashaaaaaa and Maliaaaaa." Just take the oath. Aretha's voice booms and people are overwhelmed. Just take the oath. Biden is sworn in. Please just take the oath! Finally, at 12:02pm Chief Justice Roberts stumbles through the oath of office, Obama kindly repeating what he has said even though it's incorrect (now that's class). And just like that, Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
People go crazy! I am in a state of shock. Could it be? Is George W. Bush really no longer the President? He has reigned my entire adult life and I don't quite know how to digest a Bush-less world. More than anything, I am relieved. Relieved that it has finally happened. Relieved that Bush will go back to chopping trees or starting fires with sticks or something. Relieved that a brilliant, inspirational man is now at the helm.
The speech scores big with most of the crowd. The 40 and overs are crying. Still, a peaceful calm weights on the crowd. A unified sense of "woosh, we can relax now. It finally happened." Then, just as all 2 million of us tromped in, we tromp right back out. National Guardsman direct our path, smiles on their faces. They're gunless. I am further confused. We top it all off with an All-American cheeseburger from Five Guys.
At home we watch the parade and rest up, only to learn of the events that followed - Ted Kennedy and Bobby Byrd falling ill. Hillary Clinton sticking it to some rogue Republican Senator who is questioning the philanthropic work of the Clinton Global Initiative. Toasts. Applause. A parade. Balls. A new way forward.
Oh what a day. Oh. What. A. Day.
UPDATE: And oh what a week. Within 48 hours we begin to close Guantanamo, put an end to secret CIA interrogations, reinstate habeas corpus and freeze White House staff salaries. Booya-kasha!