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Trip to DC for the Inauguration

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/22/09 (4:51pm)

I took the train down to DC for the Inauguration. It looked like the entire progressive half of the country was on its way to the nation's Capital.

In the train car on one side, a man was reading "The Return of Depression Economics" by Paul Krugman. On the other side, a woman was reading "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein. Obama regalia -- hats, pins, teeshirts -- were everywhere. As we reached our final destination, one woman suddenly broke into 'This Land is Your Land'.

First task was to pick up my 'Silver Ticket' which would determine where I would be standing during the Inauguration next day. Justin from the Congressional Office was kind enough to come down and bring me the thing. Otherwise, I would have had to join the hundreds of people waiting hours in front of every Congressional Office Building near the Capitol.

I ran into Dianne from Will County along with a couple of friends. We walked around the Capitol examining the area where the inauguration was to take place the next day.

Later on I joined a couple of friends for dinner at a pub in Clarendon. I was staying in Virginia in a town called Leesburg.

On the big day itself, we woke up at 4am. It took us about three hours to get downtown. Because the Metro was so crowded, we had to break up into different groups each trying his or her separate way of getting to the Washington Mall -- some walking, some trying to get into Metro trains that were packed to the gills with people.

Everything was packed. It was also about 20 degrees or colder. While this normally isn't bad, the fact that we were outside for several hours gave us all literally 'cold feet'. But cold feet or no cold feet, we were determined to participate in this great event.

Unfortunately, it took us so long to get to the entrance of the Silver Ticket area, that it was impossible to move forward. There simply were too many people crowding in.

Next we tried walking further down the Mall, away from the Capitol and towards the Washington Monument. It wasn't until 14th St. that there was an opening onto the lawn. We didn't have the best view, the 'Jumbotron' was way too far off and the audio came in and out, but still we were able to make out Obama's words and cheered and hollered our lungs out at all the important parts. It was a fabulous day.

We then reassembled at a nearby bar which unfortunately featured cigar smoking. Considering that we were only mid-way through a very very long day, it was amazing that everyone had beers -- except for me who wisely stuck to coffee.

Later in the evening we went to one of the Inauguration Balls. At first the idea of such a formal (not to mention stilted) occasion wasn't at all attractive to me but I was happy I went. Obama stopped by saying a few words to the crowd and while there were several hundred people in the hall it was a far more intimate environment than the million-plus scene earlier in the day. Michelle was there as well as the Vice President and his wife.

We didn't get back to Leesburg in Virginia till maybe two in the morning -- or, in other words, maybe 22 hours after we got up. Needless to say, it was a long day. We were all tired, worn out by the walking and crowds; our feet hurt and we were more than a little chilled; but the truth is, none of us would have missed this for anything in the world.