Thursday, January 22, 2009

Witness to History

One of many posters among the crowd. This one was held by a little girl of nine who had just arrived by train from Tampa with her single mother and younger brother.

Buildings across DC wore mantels of hope and change. This one speaks to a top of mind issue: wars we're waging in two countries. Notice the reflection of the American flag in the window.

Words from the AFL CIO.

My buddy Barack and I. I'm not packing on the pounds here, just seventeen layers.

Mac Daddy and I at about hour five in 19 degree temps. This is just before he started complaining about the cold. He wouldn't have made his Wisconsin brethren proud. Note the shearling coat. He hasn't worn it once in the seven years we've lived in North Carolina. I was bundled up to the max and didn't lose feeling in my toes until hour six. Our smiles were frozen on our faces.

Speaking of Wisconsin, meet Governor Doyle. Mac Daddy recognized him when he departed the warm bus on his way to his seat. Mac Daddy called out his name, which is totally out of character. Mac Daddy is a political junkie who knew the names and party affiliation of everyone who stepped off that bus. He cooed as if they were rock stars. I just snapped photos. Governor Doyle was extraordinarily gracious. He came over and shook hands with Mac Daddy and chatted him up for a while. Notice he is not wearing a hat or gloves and that his scarf is casually askew as if his wife made him sling it on for good measure. 1) He's from Wisconsin. 2) He got to wait in a heated bus and building.

I'm unclear why a cow and yellow chicky looking thingee was trapsing through the city. Yet another Wisconsin tie?

Roads and several metro stations were closed. Several people braved the cold to bike to the festivities. I swear there were a few thousand bikes parked here. We're getting greener already.

The crowd. No photo does it justice. Wall to wall people like I have never seen. Throngs. Masses.

A true fan. Her dogs had to have been barking after standing in those massive heels for so long. I think she got those boots from the Kiss Fan Club eBay store. Lord knows what's in the suitcase. Based on heightened security, I'm guessing she didn't get admittance to the swearing in ceremony or parade. The balloons were a nice touch.

Secret service. See the tall guy on the left? He was freezing his tenders off. He was visibly cold, painfully frigid. I offered him my extra fleece ear warmer headband. He declined. He tried really really hard to look cool (as in suave). Instead he just looked like a popsicle.

See the white structure on the left with a slanted roof? That's Obama's viewing booth in front of the White House. He walked down this path before taking his perch to watch the parade. Our seats were right in front of this shot.

Sniper dude on the roof. I think he looks like a Minute Man in this silhouette. You'd never find me on a roof pitched like that.

One of my favorite photos. Snipers on every rooftop. And in places we could not see.

The second limo is the one President Obama is in. And how do I know this? Because I watched him get out of it! Mac Daddy and I had parade tickets (Thank you, Ali!) right at the spot Barack and Michelle got out of their warm car and walked to their viewing booth, waving and grinning as one would expect. We were on pins and needles watching them, and the secret service was oh so very nervous.

President Barack Obama and his lovely wife Michelle. I could barely snap this photo because seeing them up close and personal took my breath away.

So what can I say to do justice to this experience? How can I adequately paint the picture of what it is to be a witness to history? The thing is, it's not hyperbole to say we witnessed history. We all did that day. Whether on CNN, BBC, or 15th and New York, we watched history unfold before our very eyes. And indeed it was a privilege. I've been running over the weekend's events in my head like an 8mm movie. We'll have a tale to weave one day when we tell our grandchildren about January 20, 2009. History is made in small ways and grand strokes everyday, but it's not everyday that we are wrapped in the folds of it.

Mac Daddy and I bundled up and headed to the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday for the We Are One concert. It was pretty freaking cool to see a sea of hopeful souls, all in awe of history being made. We met up with an old college friend of mine whose mother had seen Martin Luther King Jr. speak in the very spot decades ago. Poetic. It was simply poetic. I don't know about you, but it's not just everyday that I get to see Bruce Springsteen, Kal Penn (whom I love...yeah for the Indian actors!), Steve Carell, James Taylor, Laura Linney, Garth Brooks, Usher, Denzel Washington, Beyonce, and U2 share a stage. Garth really brought the house down. Everyone audibly gulped when Bono waxed every so slightly about Palestine. There was no room to dance, but we all swayed. We clapped. We cheered. We hugged strangers and befriended all those around us. You see, we were surrounded by half a million people who share our values and sensibilities and enthusiasm. We were engulfed in passion. And later when we got home, we embraced Bird and Deal and sang Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land along with the TV.

On inauguration day we bundled up as if were were shooting in the Himalayas with David Breashears. We made our way toward the Mall but turned away in the end, fearing we'd lose our parade spot for which we had a first class ticket (right next to the CBS jib). The scurry of secret service agents, police, and soldiers was straight out of an MGM back lot. We met secret service agents from Oklahoma and New Mexico and were privy to some behind-the-scenes tales of candor. We learned that one in three secert service agents was in DC on Tuesday. And the poor guys had been perched in their spots since 3:00 AM. AM, as in the middle of the night. The wee hours. We heard stories from a particularly friendly cop from Maryland who ushered Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Tobey Maguire, and Usher to their service jobs on Monday. He had almost 20 years of service under his belt and was full of stories for our keenly attentive ears.

What struck me most was the crowd. A human Crayola box filled with all shapes, colors, ages, religions, backgrounds. An Arab woman and her New Yorker husband and their three kids shared a bleacher seat with us. African American women lead us in song in an attempt to warm us up. A Jewish couple chatted about their hopes for Obama's administration. A retired couple, the man on crutches, sat patiently sipping tea. Young hipster kids smoked incessantly and visibly wept when Barack Obama took his oath of office (and truth be told, so did I). We met people from Tampa, Las Vegas, Rochester, Atlanta, and yes, even a few locals who dared to venture out. Everyone was excited, positive, eager. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention we were also hungry, freezing, and tired. But it was so worth it.

And let's not forget that united people, no matter how cold and uncomfortable, still have a sense of humor. Upon Joe Biden taking the oath of office, the crowd broke out chanting "Cheney's out!" and "Cheney no more!" The cheering and clapping and eruption of joy was deafening when Obama took his oath. Mac Daddy and I kissed as if we were under mistletoe on New Year's Eve. Indeed, on January 22, a new year had begun.
Witness to HistorySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful. Out of body experience. What a pleasure to read! xxoo Kate

Anonymous said...

OK, you made me tear up. No fair.

Magpie said...

So cool.

Anonymous said...

THIS IS COOL! I'm Carolyn Greene's Alaskan sister Mary Kay. I didn't quite get it at first that everyone wanted to go to a huge crowded thing like this....but I think I get it now. I live in a CONSERVO state (you remember the Palin?) in a CONSERVO neighborhood, and I am the lone blue/dem lawn sign putter-upper in my 'hood. And proud of it. So, i let my kidlets (14 & 18) stay home and watch the Big Event on the tube. Can't be missing history because someone else thinks you should be at school. I am THRILLED with Obama, and even red old Alaska has a new Democratic boy-senator Mark Begich, and we're pretty stoked about that too. I'll be back to read your blog again. Love the blog.

Mary Kay Ryckman
Alaskan Democrat
Sis of Carolyn Greene VA Dem

Bethany True said...

Wow am I glad I stumbled upon this! Thanks so much for this account and for the awesome photos. I feel like a breath of fresh air has blown into this country.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a wonderful opportunity for you, your words brought tears to my eyes and a real personnal emotion about what you saw. I enjoyed reading this.

The Cube Monkey said...


Emily Troutman said...

very cool. you got so close to obama! feel free to embed the "words for how we feel now" video on yr blog. thanks for check it out. em

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! Wish I had been there! Erin

Eliz said...

I know one of those snipers!

Loved reading your experience