Today was a beautiful day in Washington, DC. To be sure, it was bone chillingly cold, but it did not matter.
My day began at 5:15am. I made sure to put on multiple layers of clothing underneath my heavy jacket before I headed toward Washington on Interstate 66 at 5:45. There was heavy traffic on I-66 outside the Washington Beltway, where I had to exit. I-66 inside the beltway was shut down for security reasons. I made my way to a friend’s house in Arlington, about 3 miles from the Mall. From there we walked into DC.
It was a beautiful walk past Arlington National Cemetery and toward the Potomac river. We crossed the river over Memorial Bridge along with thousands headed toward the Inauguration. Coming over Memorial Bridge and sighting the Lincoln Memorial on a clear morning in Washington is a breathtaking experience. It was fitting to be welcomed into Washington by the Lincoln Memorial on such an historic day.
We made it into the Mall, past the Reflecting Pool and just east of the Washington Monument. That is as far as we got. The crowd was immense and we could go no further. We had an obscured view of the Capitol because of a few trees, but it did not matter. We were on the Mall with about 2 million others to witness President Barack Obama take the oath of office. We had a Jumbotron to view the ceremony up close, and we had the energy of the crowd to fight the bitter cold. We had a few hours to wait before we would see history. While we waited, we met a couple that came up from Barbados to be here. We also met a woman from Trinidad & Tobago who was full of sage advice.
We watched the former presidents walk into the Capitol one at a time. And then they announced the presence of former president George W. Bush. The crowd at first booed, and then cheered knowing that it was only minutes before he would be a private citizen. We watched Dick Cheney get wheeled into the Capitol on a wheelchair – karma has struck on his last day in office. We joked that at any moment he may rise out of the wheelchair in Dr. Strangelove fashion – right arm extended. We speculated that he may have pulled a muscle while trying to haul away the man-sized safe in his office. Curiously, we did not hear the announcer introduce Dick Cheney like he had the other former vice presidents.
I remarked that I detested Cheney. The woman from Trinidad & Tobago told me that I shouldn’t hate Dick Cheney – that everyone has something valuable to contribute. I responded that I agreed with her in principle that everyone has something to add, but I thought that in Cheney’s case the proposition was debatable.
Then we saw Barack Obama enter. It occurred to me then that this day, this moment, this unbelievable moment, was actually happening. The rest of what happened in the interim is kind of a blur for me. There was some speeches and some music. And then Barack Obama took the oath of office amid loud cheers from the crowd. Not knowing what to do, I high fived the person next to me, and the woman from Trinidad & Tobago gave me a hug. Barack Obama was now our president.
After Obama’s speech, we made our way across the river for the long walk back, knowing that something special had just taken place.
Click on the image below for a slideshow of my trip to the Mall to watch President Obama’s inauguration.