Saturday, January 24, 2009

Abe was Smiling

It's been a couple of days since we got back from DC and four days since we walked from our Hotel on 11th and H to the North Gate just west of the Capitol, only to find a wall of people and our entrance for silver ticket holders totally locked down.

And in these days, I've not only been able to reflect on that day, but I found my sense of this truly remarkable event honed down as I distill the experience for my friends and family.

Yes, little did we know that after walking that mile and a half in 20 degree temperatures, our day would be full of a great many more miles. First, we decided to get to the South Silver Ticket entrance by walking under the mall on the closed down interstate route. It was a bit strange with the occasional blaring and blasting of police and security personal speeding their way through us, but it was efficient.

We were told by volunteers to turn right on third street as we exited the tunnel, and to go through the security tent there. As we got there, it was clear that things were not moving along very well. By now, it's getting well into the morning, perhaps 10:30. We wait in a super tight mass of humanity and inch our way forward.

As the clock reached 11:00, we had only made our way forward by 20 feet or so. And we still had perhaps a 50 yards to go. It was then that I made the decision to grab the kids and head west. We weaved and bobbed in and out of each public entrance following various lines and flows of folks trying to get to the Mall. Each time the line flowing in would be overtaken by the line flowing out.

"It's packed", they would say.

We kept at it, finally finding a seam in a porta-potty line where we could get to the high ground in front of the Smithsonian Castle. As we worked our way towards the Washington Monument, we got our first views of the enormous crowd. The sound quality was good, and even with the acute angle, we could even see a little bit on the jumbo tron ahead.

I looked at my watch. It was almost noon. And after three hours of walking, and waiting, and retracing our steps, we had found our place.

We heard Biden take the oath, then we listened as the beautiful notes of YO YO and Pearlman drifted and rebounded down the jumbo-tron strewed Mall.

Then the big moment came and we listened as Obama took the oath of office as given to him by the Chief Justice. It sounded a little weird, but with all the echoes, it was hard to tell what had happened. But it didn't matter. As the words "So help me God, and "congratulations Mr. President" were heard, one of the most beautiful cries of joy and relief was released into the cold clear Washington air. Many if not most were crying.

We had made it.

My 8 1/2 year old grandson, and Charlie, the ten year old son of a good friend, and myself had braved the crowds, the packed hotels, the overbooked airlines, and our circuitous trip to Philly and a next day train ride to DC to actually hear and be present at the Inauguration of Barack Obama.

But what I find myself talking about is the people... all those other people who braved even more difficult odds to come to be part of this history. What I tell folks is how high everyone was. Everyone I met became a friend, whether being mashed like Sardines in a line that's not moving, or in the hotel lobby.

Everyone was joyous.

We all knew why we were there. And we were all happy to the core to be exactly where we were.

But not only was the crowd joyous, it was beautiful. In those 3 days leading up the Balls on Tuesday night, I saw folks, tens of thousands of folks, looking like they had just hopped out of a style magazine. Tall proud women in well tailored suits with Obama tiger Wood look-a-likes and dignified Morgan Freemans everywhere. It was like the Academy Awards without the red carpet and that funny lady with the foul mouth..

But what I saw and felt in the fullness of things was much deeper and much more powerful.

I felt and saw a race of people who had been elevated to the tops of human culture and power. No longer were they just in a class of their own as athletes, as singers, as entertainers in general, and in so many other pursuits, these folks now had a President.

And it is a beautiful thing.

Not only is Barack Obama one of the smartest presidents this county has ever elected, he is one of the classiest.

And that class, and his ascencion,

has not just elevated a whole people,

it has made us all higher,

and it might even make us whole.

As we left the Mall that day from the far west side,

I looked at the Lincoln Monument,

And I swear, sitting there in his chair,
My good camera was out of power, so I took this with my phone

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful account, Oz!

I got to spend the entire day at a house that has electricity and a big screen TV so I got to see it all. (I live off-grid and my battery bank system is not working well of late)
I was in and out of tears of joy and sitting down, then standing up with everyone else at the times asked to stand. Man! I am soooo glad this has come to be.

Thanks for going and sharing!

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Tina, thanks for going and sharing. I was delighted to learn that you gave two young boys a lifelong memory of history being made. That's what grandparents are for!

10:24 AM  

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