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Morning, America

January 21, 2009

Morning in America

Yesterday, I was one of 1.4 million (or 800,000 or 2 million, depending on who you ask) people on the National Mall who watched Barack Obama take the oath of office. We left our house in northwest DC around quarter to 7, and were lucky to be on a relatively empty Metro train to Farragut North. We pushed forward until we got about a mile away from the Capitol, but right in front of a Jumbotron. That was 8:30 a.m.

We waited. People jostled a little bit until 10:30, but we were pretty much in our spots for the whole ceremony then. A little kid bumped against me as he tried to get warm.

Cheers for Kerry. Cheers for Clinton. Laughter for Roland Burris. A mix of silence, boos, and singing “Good-bye” for now former President Bush. The lady behind me, who was the best part of the ceremony for many reasons, said “Don’t boo, don’t do that. Let the guy go. Let him just leave.”

Raucous cheering when Obama put his hand on the Bible, nervous laughter when there was a huge pause in the oath when Justice Roberts (or the teleprompter) mixed the words around.

Now, 2 million leaving from one place is always going to be a problem – and fortunately, everyone I ran into was nice and patient as we attempted to leave the Mall. Leaving an otherwise huge open space was too hard. After waiting to be let out on 14th Street (as the jumbotrons had directed us to!), we gave up and walked to the southwest corner, and slowly pushed through the Department of Agriculture’s shrubbery (a metaphor, somehow), and realized the National Guard was letting people out of that exit by having them step in between a break in the barriers, one at a time.

The Big Picture, again, doesn’t disappoint in its selection of photos from yesterday

Sunday was largely a dress rehearsal for Tuesday – and to my own shock – Garth Brooks brought down the house. The concert was also responsible for “This Land is My Land” on my mental radio for the past three days, something that hasn’t happened since my 2nd grade Memorial Day parade.

The crowd photos from Sunday are much better in terms of even comprehending the size of the crowds.

Inaugalypse, dress rehearsal

From the NYT Caucus blog:

Reverend V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop from New Hampshire who advised Mr. Obama on gay rights issues, gave the invocation. But his words were lost to hundreds of thousands gathered along the Reflecting Pool and those tuning in on HBO. A malfunction in at least one massive speaker tower on the south side of the memorial left tightly-packed crowds on pins and needles chanting thunderously, “We can’t hear. We can’t hear.”

In the impenetrable sea of people, concert goers near the tower traded ideas on how to draw attention to the problem. They would not miss history. On man called the Washington, D.C. Police Department, but got no where as he explained that there was no emergency.

Finally, Luke Taylor, 18, a student at American University from Charlottesville, Virginia scrawled a note on a poster in dark blue ink: “Speaker is off.”

He passed the SOS to the man in front of him, and watched as it made its way hundreds of yards toward the stage.

“We think it went all the way up, ” Luke said victoriously.

Also, my entire section started jabbing their pointer fingers up in the air, so that might have helped.

Mostly it was standing and seeing basically nothing (if I was about 3 inches taller, it would have been fine, but of course the really tall dudes with hats were right in front of me) at the concert, but I’m glad I went, if only to heckle Beyonce to sing “Single Ladies”.

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