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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The Inauguration

Posted by Thomas Nephew on January 21st, 2009

I’m still thawing out from attending the Inauguration; meanwhile, have a look at a few photos from Monday and Tuesday.  What a contrast to the one four years ago.

Getting to the Mall proved less difficult than expected, though our party (nine friends and family) did have to squeeze into some extremely crowded Metro cars to make the trip.  We got out at Farragut North and walked the rest of the way to the Washington Monument — a path that led around the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route.

Exiting Farragut North, we joined a stream and then a river of humanity flowing down towards the Mall in the early morning darkness.  The mood was festive as it had been all weekend, but as we arrived at the open spaces around the Washington Monument, it became more like what I imagine the final leg of a pilgrimage might be: solemn and joyful all at once.

The fingers- and toes-numbing cold made the ensuing wait a bit of an ordeal.  Nonetheless, it was great to see out the end of the bad old Bush years in person, and to hear first-hand that the new president intends to lead differently than the past one did.  I don’t intend to use this space to closely analyze Obama’s speech; what I think was more significant (even) than the many good things Obama said was the sheer size of the outpouring of public support he got on  Tuesday.  If this can indeed be harnessed into an effective “permanent campaign,” as TIME Magazine calls it, the limits of what Obama will achieve may not be set by his opponents, but by himself.

For today: congratulations, President Obama!  But also, congratulations to all those who sacrificed and worked to make this day happen –from the civil rights activists of yesteryear to Obama election volunteers in 2008.

6 Responses to “The Inauguration”

  1. Nell Says:

    Thanks so much to you and your family and friends, and your two million other friends, for being there.

    Pretty much fun watching that helicopter get smaller and smaller and smaller.

    Lots of pleasure in being able to listen to a President without wincing.

    Say ‘Amen’, and ‘Amen’, and ‘Amen’!

  2. RobertNAtl Says:

    I am so glad you got to go and that you had a good time despite the cold weather. I guess that means that the twins and I saw you on TV! We watched it at a restaurant with lots of big screen TVs.

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Robert, if you watch a Youtube of this, we’re about 3/4 of the way back, waving a flag. 🙂

    We had a good time. I cracked up people around me when Cheney showed up in his wheelchair, by doing a “dunh dunh DUNH, dunh-duh-DUNH, dunh-duh-DUNH” version of the Imperial March from Star Wars. Also did a good Homer Simpson shriek when Barbara Bush appeared on the screen. Chip brandished a shoe when Bush appeared; I didn’t because my feet were cold enough as it was. (Note to self: tennis shoes won’t do if you’re standing on ice cold ground for longer than, oh, 15 minutes.) We all turned our back on Rick Warren — but were nearly alone among those within view in doing so. One young lady behind us figured it out and decided to join in. Everyone went “huh?” and thought he was an idiot when he did that “SSSashah!” bit.

    Maddie was an absolute trooper, esp. when you think that most of the time what she saw was someone’s back (at best:). She wilted a bit for a while when her fingers got numb, but we warmed them up for her and she perked up again. I picked her up for the swearing in, and for some of the speech, and for views when big shots like Gore and so on showed up. Turned out a bunch of her friends went too. She was very inspired when she got home, wrote a long letter about it and also some stuff on her mini-laptop, and put up lots of signs saying “change” and “freedom of speech” and whatever else came to mind when she came home.

    Like Jim Henley wrote, it was great seeing Bush’s sour expression; I think it was when Obama was talking about returning to old, true values. I liked Obama’s speech, it wasn’t a stump speech or a stemwinder, but there were lots of good parts to it.

  4. WWWeber Says:

    Glad you guys had a great time. Laura and I were last-minute recipients of a coveted Purple Ticket. Wasn’t worth crap, as it turned out.

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Oh no — you weren’t among the people who didn’t get let in, were you? UPDATE: … yes you were. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

    I thought it would seem churlish in my writeup to mention it, but with all these reports of terrible crowd management, I’ll do so after all: our exit from the Mall was a nightmare, too, and one that could easily have turned tragic. When we headed back towards the Washington Monument (to go the way we came, up 18th Street, thus avoiding the parade route), it seemed like half the Mall crowd was trying to squeeze out through some invisible (from where we were standing) and clearly tiny exit. With absolutely no direction or help from numerous police and camouflaged troops standing around. Including some, it turned out, helping make one of the bottlenecks bottleneckier, whether by intent or innate stupidity. 14th Street — which divides the monument grounds from the rest of the mall — had been barricaded off, I suppose to serve as an emergency access to the parade route, maybe as a presidential security measure. So a huge crowd had to go south, down to Independence Avenue, squeezing through a space between 14th St and a Dept of Agriculture building (I think) before being allowed to disperse to points west.

    The result was that thousands of people were shuffling and pushing forward against eachother, and gradually getting upset about it, with no guidance about whether things would work out other than occasional “snakes” of people pushing back against the flow. It was epically mismanaged, and if somebody had knocked down barricades and there had been a stampede, people could have been hurt. I’ve seen reports of security people giving themselves a big old pat on the back about the day; they shouldn’t. People in the crowd were happier than usual, I think, so there was a larger reserve of good will than usual. But it almost got used up.

    You know what we could have used? Communications and live footage about how and where to exit (and that the museums were open! I didn’t know that until too late), maybe broadcast to us on some sort of huge, TV-like devices positioned strategically all over the mall… crazy idea, I know.

    =====
    UPDATE, 1/23: re the Purple Ticket fiasco, an apology, a map, an analysis at the Huffington Post. and of course a facebook group.

  6. newsrackblog.com » Blog Archive » See you in Holland Says:

    […] Nell on The Inauguration […]

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