Posted by: Pat | January 23, 2009

American Pie

American Pie has been replaying in my head since Garth Brooks rendition Sunday at the Inauguration concert. I must admit that I watched it from the comfort of my living room. I live near DC and was one of the many locals who said, no way am I going downtown. Many of us who live here, have at least one horror story about dealing with the crowds on the national mall during a holiday visit. But, when our friends from NC wanted to stay with us and attend the Inauguration, I said yes. I was not sure that I would go with them but would be glad to give them a warm home near a metro stop. But watching the Sunday concert, I decided that I wanted to be part of history, even it meant watching it on a jumbotron. I had not been able to obtain one of those prize purple, silver, blue, yellow or orange tickets that would place me in a seat so I would be joining the masses on the mall. Our plans were to go early to get a good spot in front of one of the huge screens know as the jumbotron. The news had been predicting huge crowds and encouraging the use of public transportation. Our fear of not being able to find a parking space at metro prompted us to arrive at 6am. We found a parking space with ease but the crowd was all ready lined up to get into the station. I have been in several large crowds either waiting to see Obama or waiting to vote. There is something different about these crowds. They are happy, sharing jokes, giving advise, polite, and patient. There is no pushing, rude remarks, or jostling to get ahead of the crowd. At least that has been my experience but you must know that I am an optimist. All went well on our trip in and we arrived in time to claim a place in front of a jumbotom on the mall.

The time went fast. We enjoyed talking with other viewers on the mall. Many were locals but we met a lot of people who had taken buses from New Jersey, Florida, and other states and would be leaving that night. All were celebratory. We also dressed in layers and had hand and foot warmers, so we stayed fairly comfortable either though it was 28 degrees. The swearing in of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president was greeted with tears, clapping, yells, and sighs of relief that this day had finally come. You did not hear it on television, but the crowds booed both Bush and Cheney when they were introduced. President Obama’s addressed was inspirational. The crowd was glad that he did not shy away from addressing the missteps of the Bush administration and declaring that things were going to be different now that he was President. After the ceremony, we left the mall feeling hopeful for our country and a sense of glee that we had a president that we could be proud of.

I wish I could say that our trip home was as easy as the trip in but that was not to be. I had expected problems with delays but I had not realized that we might be trapped in the shopping mall of hell for over two hours trying to get on the metro. Our station at Federal Triangle was closed and we were directed to L’Enfant Plaza. There is a small shopping mall there, where we decided to take a bathroom break and get some hot coffee. It was a wrong decision because when we finally moved to the mall corridor that led to the  metro, the crowd was huge. There was no organized lines or assistance from any officials, just a sea of overdressed people in a hot mall trying to converge on a small metro entrance. As the wait dragged on, people started fainting. Calls for EMTs, doctor or nurse were heard about every 15 minutes when another Obama supporter went down. The crowd did their best to help those fainting and all recovered. Many of us started taking off all those layers that had severed us well while we were on the national mall but was causing us to become overheated now that we were in a crowded hall. We finally got assistance from the National Guard who manage the crowd and got us all to our trains. We were lucky to be one of the first on the train and claimed a seat for the long ride home.

So even if I couldn’t see Obama up close and our trip home was long and difficult, am I glad that I joined 1.8 million people to stand on our national mall for over four hours. The answer has to be yes. I am glad that I was there. I was excited about the election of our new president and was so glad to see this day come to fuition. It was enough to be there and share this experience with other excited supporter.

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