January 22, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
It was the best party I had ever attended. Everyone was my friend, yet I went there knowing no one. I talked to perfect strangers and felt as if I had known them all my life.
It was the highest high of my life, but there was no alcohol or drugs served.
And when Barack Obama said that there is a
"God given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness"
I was ecstatic. He was talking directly to me. In my mind he was laying the groundwork for my emancipation which will come later in his administration. It could have been Harvey Milk up there talking to me.
I knew then that Barack Obama was going to fulfill his campaign promises. In fact seeing how quickly he is moving with executive orders on his promises, I am sure this guy is serious about gay rights. He does what he says.
And my high is still present, two days later. Maybe this is what if felt like to be in Times Square at the end of World War II.
I met so many interesting people who became immediate soul mates. The photo above was taken on the Metro on the way to the festivities.
Inauguration Day began early for me getting up at 4:30 am to catch the 7:30 am flight to Reagan National. I was going up and back on the same day.
My plane arrived in DC at 9:08 am and I was in line at the check point for Purple ticket holders (the intersection of Louisiana and First Street) around 10, finally to be admitted just before Barack was introduced.
When I got off the plane, I quickly made my way to the Metro, but when I got to the platform, a train was pulling away and there were still about 1000 people on the platform. I asked someone what happened and he said that it was the third train that passed them by because it was full. I immediately turned around, went back down the escalators and up to the other platform for trains going south. An empty yellow train came immediately and I got on, took a seat and went 4 stops in the wrong direction to Huntington, where the train immediately turned around and began going north to DC. When we got to the Reagan National Airport stop again, the train was full and very few people were able to squeeze on. Meanwhile, I was comfortably seated. If I had not learned this trick from all my years on public transportation I would have missed the inauguration as many others did. (Why didn't the Metro folks only open certain cars at each station so everyone had a shot to get into the train everywhere along the route?)
I waited in line at my check point for over an hour inching along because of the inefficiency of the ticket checkers. I made friends with everyone around me. The mood was joyous. This type of really bad line management under any other circumstances would have resulted in a riot. I could go on and on with what they did wrong, but suffice it to say, it was very bad at the Purple check point.
In any case, I got in just before Barack was introduced. I was one of the last people to get in before they closed the Purple gate. The area was fairly packed, and I could not get to where I had planned to stand. Just as I was about to choose my spot, I noticed that some people were removing a waist high fence surrounding one of the monuments, and they began entering that verboten zone, climbing the monument for a better view. There were at least 6 police officers right there, so I waited to see how they would react to this. After a moment it became clear that the police chose not to make an issue out of this, so I joined the young people climbing the monument to get a better view. (Picture below) It should be noted that the monument was surrounded by freshly planted ornamental cabbages as part of the landscaping. I was worried for the plants. On my way out after the ceremonies I could not find one cabbage plant that had been trampled by the 100 people or so who had made the circle around this monument their home for an hour during the inauguration. This was definitely a well behaved crowd.
I would say I was within 300 yards or so of the stage. It was one of those indelible moments in life such as the lunar landing or the Kennedy assassination, only this time I was there in person instead of simply watching on TV. One million, two million, who knows how many people.... but in spite the tremendous crowds, people were happy, polite, and patient in the face of the tremendous obstacles by security in getting to your allotted spot. Sadly to say, some people with Purple tickets behind me, did not get in. The reason for this is unclear and the Presidential Inauguration Committee has begun an investigation to see what happened.
In general there were 3 groups of really good tickets. They were on the actual Capitol grounds. The first group was up on stage with Obama and these were the Senators and Congressmen, former presidents, and very, very important people. The next group was seated at a lower level in front of Obama and they were anywhere from 50 yards to 250 yards or so away. These were government officials from around the country, Hollywood stars, and people who paid $5000 or $10,000 for a weekend package to all events. (I had declined this opportunity.)
Finally in my group, we stood behind these people and were between 250 to 400 yards away....about midway between the stage and the large Capitol reflecting pool. The people on the Mall behind me were anywhere from a half mile away to to two to three miles away. However, neither they nor I could could see the features of Obama's face and we both had to rely on the Jumbotrons, so in a sense our positions were equal.
The over-riding mood of the day was happiness, people being nice to people, and a real patriotic feeling. The only thing comparable for me was the Bicentennial celebration I attended in Boston with over a million people at the Esplanade along the Charles with Arthur Fiedler playing the 1812 Overture just as the canon and fireworks started. Both events were wonderful, but the Obama inauguration was definitely more wonderful.
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