Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Well what a journey. It has been amazing to be a part of this campaign as a volunteer and then to be a part of this celebration and history. It has been, though quite an adventure! After finagling being let back into our hotel room at 1:15 am this morning, we still had no electricity – and it was still not on when we got up at 4 am. So we had to shower and get ready in the dark with no hot water. But that would not deter us or dampen our spirits. We headed to the Metro and was able to easily get on. However, someone broke a train door so we had to deboard the train and after that all trains were packed and we could not get on. We had to get on going the reverse direction to get on at the start. After that what should have taken 40 minutes took 2 hours. If you have ever watched any of the national lampoon movies like European Vacation you can guess that this journey was to have many detours instore. Our trip would be an inauguration version of this classic…Still though, we were excited to get the Capitol! My mom and I headed to the line for the Blue gate we were designated to enter and the rest of the gang headed to the mall. You may have heard on the news and blogs that thousands of people with tickets did not get into. We were among those thousands. We cannot figure out exactly why, there were many reasons depending on which officer you talked with and what line you were in. The bottom line though, is that although those of us attending were prepared to wait hours and expected mass crowds, the officials were less prepared. They could not get holders of all of the tickets that they issued through security and into the proper area. Although we were late from the Metro, we were still within the timeline provided with our tickets. We were to enter the blue gate, but made little progress in 2 ½ hours in about 20 degree temperatures (as Justin says “cold that hurts your face”. There was no one providing information, until finally at about 10:45 a military guard told us that security screening would shut down at 11 and we were still more than an hour wait from the screening. By this point the program had already begun with music and from we were standing, you could here nothing, see nothing. I tried to not completely freak out while we figured out what to do. I really could not believe that we had come all this way and would miss it completely. We decided to high tail it to the national mall (keep in mind my mom has a sprained knee and a cane!). As we round a corner several blocks away there were more blue gate lines and they were in total disarray. Just as thousands waited in line, thousands more were heading our same direction. Eventually we made it to the mall area, but of course the entrances were closed. Eventually 20 or so blocks later we made it to an open entrance where we could hear the inauguration, although we could not see it on the screens. We made it just in time to hear Biden get sworn in so we were able to hear Obama’s swearing in and his address. This whole process was so frustrating, especially when our original plan was to go to the mall but were so happy to have been offered an opportunity to view this up close (not to mention that we stood for hours yesterday in the cold just to pick up the tickets). Luckily, Justin, Gregory, Shawnine and Monique were able to get a spot behind the Washington Monument (just about where we were for the Inaugural concert) and were able to view the entire ceremony.
Despite the disappointment of the tickets, this was still an incredible experience. My mom and I both were overcome with emotion when Obama took his oath of office. My mom says that she never remembers seeing this type of excitement, hope, and involvement on a national or international level – the closest experience she can point to is the election of Kennedy. There is something that you can’t quite put into words about being here with all of these other people from around the country and the world celebrating Obama’s presidency, the principles he represents and America. I talked with people everywhere we went and people came from near, far, and even further. I am happy to have been here for the moment that our country gained President Obama as our commander in chief. Something that struck me about the inauguration and the events surrounding it is the calmness the seemed to surround everyone – even in the midst of the ticket debacle and the swarms of millions. It was clear that everyone was here to be a part of this moment and of the process. I heard so many people talking about how they were involved in the Obama campaign, and through that in their community, and so many who participated in community events, voter registration, and usually mentioned some particular issue they are particularly concerned with. President Obama will of course now need to produce policies and provide strong leadership through these difficulty times, but so much of what he has done is to give our government and political process to the people – where it belongs.

Before packing up my things to hit the road tomorrow, we are watching the balls and replays of President Obama’s speech. On a slightly less important issue, I love Michelle Obama’s ball gown. Lastly, I think it is perfect that the girls are spending their first night in their new home having a sleepover with familiar friends.

Below is a link to a short piece of the ticket debacle. I will post video and pictures by the end of the weekend. Hoped to have them today but computer is taking a long time downloading.



Tess said...

Lea, I'm so sorry that you and Mom didn't get into the ticket holder area. Shame on them for not having a better system in place! But you ever the "glass half full" kind of girl, could still take joy from the experience no matter how "European Vacation" the journey. Again I admire you and your tenacious desire to see things through the end. I think tenaciousness was likely the driving force for the majority of the people in attendance. That you were present in the closest proximity physically possible and that through you and your Mom the boys were able to experience something they relay to their children and their grandchildren, I know, for you, made it all worth while. Thank you for letting us be part of your journey. Can't wait to see the pictures. What a glorious day! God Bless America and God Bless the President!
Travel home safely, see you soon!

ValerieV said...

I am sorry you didn't get into the area you were supposed to. I think the powers that be, just didn't understand what 2 million people would be like!
2 Million people! Wow! I watched the entire thing on TV and it was great but you know, everyone on the TV was talking about the feeling that was around DC. That is what I believe is the most important part of this whole thing. That feeling in which President Obama offers to the citizens of our country and the world. You got to feel that, got to witness and experience first hand that inspiration and hope! Hope! For the first time in 8 very long years we have hope!
Thank you so much for telling us about your time in DC. Craziness and all I envy you greatly. I can't wait to see the pics.
Have a very safe trip and call me and lets talk about what is next!

Charlene said...

So, Ms. Lea, did you or anyone one else on your team get any of this on video? It could be a documentary you know! I can see it now...

I am sure you will have many more stories! Be safe! Huggs to everyone!