Remembrances of the 2009 presidential inauguration

Remembrances of the 2009 presidential inauguration

Just a few days ago most people were yawning about President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
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This morning, though, broadcasters and others were expressing more enthusiasm shortly before he was to publicly take the oath of office for a second time.

As I watched the news from Washington I felt my own interest build as I remembered the historic inauguration of 2009, which I covered for this newspaper.

The most vivid memory I have is of seeing, from the place I found a block or so from the inauguration stand, the tightly packed, massive crowd of up to 2 million people. They reached from the Capitol to the Lincoln Monument and beyond.

The sight was overwhelming, almost unbelievable.

It created in me pride and a sense of unity with other Americans that I had never felt before and perhaps have never felt since.

It was quite cold that day but the people around me created a warmth I won’t forget.

Many of us had arrived on the mall at the crack of dawn, or even before. Lines of 20 or more people across had already formed when I exited the Metro stop near the Blue Gate, which my ticket had designated as my entrance.

Many human traffic jams ensued. We waited for hours to pass through bottlenecks, all the while chatting with friendly strangers. I met the secretary of the Democratic party in Oregon and a young black man who had been inspired by Obama to run for a local office back in his state.

During the ceremony I stood, stamping my cold feet and watching the proceedings on jumbo screens. The mass of humanity roared when Obama finally laid his hand on the bible.

After the ceremony I trudged over to then Congressman Timothy Johnson’s office. He wasn’t there was but some of his staff members were. They had spread out food for us constituents. I was thrilled to see us — most of us Democrats I presume — take over the Republican’s office, at least for a while.

After warming myself, eating and chatting with the people there, among them Bruce and Mary Knight and Ollie Watts Davis and one of her daughters, I wandered around the mall. Every Metro stop I tried to enter was packed so I continued to walk all around Washington that day, enjoying the euphoria and the sense of quiet pride displayed by African-Americans, particularly the elders.

Along the way I saw hundreds of vendors, many unofficial, selling homemade souvenirs. For example, paintings of Obama and Michelle Obama, laid out in the grass. T-shirts that read “Paint the White House Black.” Another Tshirt with a Obama wearing sunglasses and exiting a limo. Above him, the words: “Mission: Accomplished.”      Blog Photo   Blog Photo

Among other souvenirs I brought back: My media badges; a bumper sticker reading “Obama Inauguration 2009 I was there!”; a package of (unused) Obama condoms, marketed as the “ultimate stimulus package”; a Rand McNally President Barack Obama Commemorative Inaugural fabMap, which I never opened; and Metro tickets with Obama’s image.

I also have a few button pins with Obama and the first lady’s image, and a small tin of mints with Shepard Fairey’s famed image of Obama, with his motto “Yes we can!”

It was after nightfall when I finally made my way via the Metro to Falls Church, Va., where I was staying with my old friend Dan Olmsted. I filed a story and we watched more inaugural proceedings on television before I fell into bed, exhausted and happy.

I along with 2 million others had witnessed history. We had behaved — I heard little grumbling, despite the cold and long waits, and no altercations. And for me the hope and change Obama had promised had already come in the form of his election to the nation’s highest office.

 

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