A Time of Change
Today I came home from Washington, DC. I was fortunate enough to be able to obtain 2 silver tickets to the Inauguration. These tickets entitled me to stand in the ticketed standing area behind the Capital Reflecting Pool (including the first part of the Mall).
I arrived in DC on Saturday night, and began my weekend of events by going to the free concert at the Lincoln Memorial. I arrived early enough at the Memorial area to get through the security gates, but I was no where near early enough to get close to the Lincoln Memorial itself. This is about as close as I got. After getting that close, I then backed up to a jumbotron so that I could actually see what was going on. I am not going to go into who performed and spoke, because I believe that plenty of people already have done that. The crowd was amazing, there were people as far as the eye could see. Then when I left the show, there was even more crowd about, out as far as the Washington Monument (there were no jumbotrons there).
On Monday, I didn't do a whole lot, but Tuesday morning at 7 am I left to go to the Capital. I arrived inside the ticket area by about 8:45ish or so, and found my section nearly full, in addition there was a crowd spreading back across the rest of the Mall.
We stood around that morning in the cold. As we tried to stay warm, we talked to one another. We tried to help one another find ways to warm up just a little bit. Then, the guests started to arrive, and we began slowly to forget about the cold. As images of people came onto the jumbotron people cheered, or sometime jeered. A large cheer went up for Senator Ted Kennedy, and people started chanting "Teddy! Teddy!" They showed the limos that were transporting former President Bush and President Obama to the ceremony. People cheered as Bush and President Obama exited the limo. We discussed Michelle Obama's outfit. Then the Inauguration began, and people quieted down. The cold was entirely forgotten. When President Obama spoke a hush mostly fell (I say mostly only because about a half dozen or more people decided to leave the ceremony during his address)
I rented a telephoto zoom lens hoping that I would be able to get a photo of the President Obama's swearing in from my area. As you may be able to guess from the above photo, that wasn't really happening.
This is as close as I could get with the rented lens. Definitely not bad, you can see people, you just can't really see any details of the people. I had 1/2 hoped that when I got home I would be able to crop and enlarge the center area and see more detail. So far, that hasn't really worked. I was able to identify the people in 2 of my shots. I am going to show you these photos, but you have to sort of use your imagination. The first is of former President Bill Clinton with Hillary Clinton.
Next we have the quartet playing the Williams composition. You can more easily identify Yo-yo Ma, but you can also sort of see the others.
The atmosphere of the Inauguration was one of hope and optimism. All of the people that I encountered were friendly, talkative, and excited. DC was alive. When people tried to start something, others around them ignored them, or calmly ended the attempt. When leaving DC after the Inauguration there were military personnel stationed at the Metro station to limit the number of passengers going down at once. This was a rational and cautious thing to do (a woman had already fallen onto the tracks earlier). Nonetheless, a woman started chanting "Let us in" It was clear that she was hoping for others to join her. One of the soldiers posted looked nervous, lets face it crowd control of 2m people has to be tense. The situation could easily have escalated to a mob scene, but it didn't. Most people seemed content to wait and take their time leaving.
President Obama has a huge following right now. He also has a very heavy task before him. It is a job that will require strong leadership and which will surely anger people on both sides of the aisle. I am glad to have had the opportunity to be there for this historic event, and I hope that the optimism of January 20th can survive the rough road ahead.