BLOGGING THE INAUGURATION:  We’re all Americans on this day

January 18, 2009

The two Kenyan exchange students were dancing in the street. They were about the only ones dancing as I approached them somewhere around 20th Street. The crowd was a bit thinner here, but not much.

“We’re all Americans today,” they shouted as we could hear Bruce Springsteen sing “The Rising.”

Like tens of thousands of others, we were nowhere near the stage. We really weren’t anywhere near the Mall. I had arrived at about 2, taking the 20-minute Metro ride from north Virginia. Somehow, I thought that would be a good time. How many people would still be coming into the area for a concert that had already started? Oh, about 100,000, it turned out.

This trip was “solo” — perhaps a testament from my son, showing his confidence that I could get around OK in the middle of a million or so people.

I talked with Carol from Texas on the Metro about the president-elect. She’s here for the concert, but isn’t staying for the inauguration. Like many others I’ve spoken to, she believes
Obama will “do the job” but she is also pragmatic. She volunteers in her city and is encouraging her 10-year-old daughter to, as well.

“I tell her, don’t just do for yourself, do for others,” she said. If this is any indication, most organizations around the country will have volunteers coming out of their collective nonprofit ears in the coming months.

I could not believe the Metro station at Foggy Bottom. I’m not sure anybody else could, either.

The concert had begun more than an hour before. Security was tight, with somebody every few feet intoning, “Stay on the sidewalk, stay on the sidewalk, stay on the sidewalk!”  I lost Carol before we got to the escalators.

As we got closer to the Mall — we were, at least, on the Lincoln Memorial side — we could hear music, but we could also see that we were being routed to the east, toward the Washington Monument, farther and farther away from the stage. I got out of the crowd at 20th or so, not sure, but I wanted to get my bearings before going on.

It’s important to note here that a “block” here is the equivalent of about eight or so blocks back home. From 23rd to 18th is about a mile, or close to it.

You could hear the music and the crowd pretty good at 20th, but I wandered back and forth a bit, talking with people, or just watching. While the temperature was about 36, it was cloudy, not windy, so this was a good day.

A family from India seemed disoriented. They were excited and talkative and I could not understand anything they said. One of the traffic cops helped them, or at least tried to.

The crowd pouring forth and on was well-mannered, happy, jovial. Nobody ever lost patience at the seemingly endless array of street hawkers selling anything-Obama. All ages were there, very young, young, old, very old. I caught snippets of a conversation: a couple of young men comparing Obama with Alexander the Great. OK.

I’ve always found people in D.C. to be friendly, outgoing, but I had to remember that many of these people were not from the area. Like me, in fact.

Knowing the concert would end soon, I figured I’d better head back. The few Metro stations that were open would be jammed for hours and I didn’t want to take a taxi into Georgetown, which was my designated Plan B. Problem was, I never saw a taxi.

The concert ends in about an hour or so, and they’re still coming — for Barack Obama, and because, well, we’re all Americans today.


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