January 28, 2009


Hi Johanna:
How was the Inauguration? Are you going to send a report?
Uncle Mike

Well... Inquiring minds want to know. Even my favorite Grand Old Partier wants to know about the big day... here's my report.

Hi Uncle Mike,

Sorry it's taken a while for the full report, but it took a few days to recover from the travel fiasco and i'm still recovering from the nasty, nasty cold I got from traveling/lack of sleep. This is pretty long, but I figured I owed you more content since the wait for it was so long. You get interest in paragraph form.

Well, it was quite the whirlwind, but well worth it. The constant theme throughout the entire experience was everyone wanting to talk to each other. They wanted to tell you where they were from, why they were there, what they were hoping for and hear about your experience too. Everywhere. At the balls, in line, at the airport - even prior to when I was in Macy's in Chicago shopping for a Ball dress, there were other women shopping for their own dresses giving each other knowing "oh, girl, I'm going too" type smiles.

I flew out of O'Hare after work on Monday. I expected my flight to be full of people doing the same thing I was, but it wasn't. It was a small regional jet that wasn't even full. I was expecting, especially coming from Chicago, the described "Air Force Obama" experience my friend had going out there the weekend before from California.

Flew into BWI and took a Super Shuttle into the city. Shared the shuttle with a couple with eastern European accents, a mother and 10 year old daughter from Arizona, and a retired history teacher from Stockton. I got in around 12:30 to my friend's apartment. People will still out and about in anticipation of the next day.

I got about 4 hours of precious sleep before waking up at 4:30 to head to meet my friend who had our tickets. My friend that made all this possible was my big sis from my sorority, Stina. She's currently working as Speaker Pelosi's district scheduler in San Francisco. She was staying over with a friend in Capitol Hill, so I planned to meet her towards the entrance of our gate on the lawn. I walked about 2 miles towards the mall and met her in front of Union Station. The sun wasn't even up and there were tons of people up and around, doing the exact same thing I was doing - trying to get in line as soon as possible. I had been walking briskly so I never really realized how flipping cold it was.

We were in the "Blue Section" that was, if you were standing looking at the Capitol we were to the right of the stage. We were so close that our view of the stands/podium/dais were blocked at an angle by the large press section.

We waited in line for 5 hours. It was cold. I couldn't feel my toes at several points. There was virtually no one doing crowd management that I saw. We kind of guessed where to get into the Blue Section line. Once we got up towards the security gate where we had to show our tickets and go through metal detectors the crowd really bottlenecked. There was a lot of pushing and people kind of all rushed to get through so that was the only part that was hasty. Once you got through security the mass of people really thinned out.

Once you were finally out of line, the mall had a very similar feeling to Grant Park on election night. It was almost eerie how peaceful it was. People were excited and hopeful and calm - or maybe the cold had just frozen their faces expressionless, I don't know. We filed in and found a good spot and though we were very close we ended up watching the whole ceremony on a jumbotron.

It was great and the most overwhelming part was when they would show pans of the crowd on the screen. You were like, woah, I'm one of those little blips. Part of something really big. It was nice to get in, we could hear everything just fine, there was such an array of people. Everyone was mostly congenial except for the one, how do I say this nicely, Jerry-Springer-Guest-esque family next to us. (You can see his elbow in some of my pictures, wearing cammo hunting gear, obviously) Let's just say he was very disrespectful to the outgoing Commander-In-Chief to the point that he was upsetting even the most liberal of attendees. I would like to take this time to thank him for ruining the perennial favorite "Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam, which should have remained in its proper place - karaoke bars, not at the Inauguration of the US President being shouted by some tone-deaf country bumpkin.

The ceremony was nice, people were quiet through the entertainment (I WANT ARETHA FRANKLIN'S HAT!) and the swearing in and the President's Inaugural Address. It was very cool to see that many people rapt all focusing on the same thing.

After the ceremony we headed over to a reception for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo that my friend's old coworker had organized at the Library of Congress. We warmed up and enjoyed the well-picked menu of comfort food and hot chocolate. After that we headed back to Stina's friend's house on Capitol Hill. I stayed there for a while to warm up then walked the 2 miles back to my friends apartment though booth after booth of Obama-centric merchandise. There were so many vendors selling calendars, posters, tee shirts, stickers, buttons, watches... you name it Barack's name and face were on it. This went on for blocks and blocks.

We watched news coverage of the parade while we got ready for the Western States Inaugural Ball back at my friend's house. We attempted to take a cab over to the Washington Convention Center, but ended up walking in our evening dresses and strappy shoes half the way there. The balls were much easier to get into than inauguration itself. The Western States Ball was pretty tame. I think the Neighborhood Ball or the Youth Ball would've been much more hoppin as far as the VIP/Social/party scene. The coat check was a mess, the food was crappy and drinks were overpriced and not worth the wait in the TWO lines (you had to get drink tickets THEN get in line to get your beverage) - but it was still exciting to be there - to know that you were at an Official Inaugural Ball.

Weren't as many celebs as anticipated. I saw Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, got to meet Congresswoman Lynn Woosley (who a fellow Alpha Phi alumna) as well as Dolores Huerta, and Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez performed. Oh, and I got to see the Vice President and President. ;-) They came in briefly, I was much closer when Biden came than when Obama came. Had a few cocktails, boogied to a great cover band from Atlanta, waited in line for an hour to get my coat and called it a night.

Traveling home the next day was a big mess. Transportation getting out of the city was so crazy that I missed my flight out of BWI at 9:00 and was only able to get on another one out of Dulles at 5:00 PM. Planes, trains, and automobiles that day. And buses. And Metro trains. Yikes.

Well I'm still sniffling, but I have the pictures and buttons to prove I was there. So glad I got to go. Wish I would've taken more pictures but my camera was on the fritz!

Hope this wasn't too extensive. HOpe all is well!


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