The Inauguration was incredible. I have said on here before that I didn't vote for our President but of course I am an American and I will always support our country. That being said, I would not have missed Obama's inauguration for anything. Truly! It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever witnessed! Ever! We had to wake up very very early each morning and didn't get home until late each night but it was well worth it.Monday, Jan. 19: We (20 students and 3 other sponsors) met up at the school at 3:30 in the morning. We went to DFW, had plenty of time to go through security and make our flight, and arrived in DC around 10:30. It was extremely cold there and we were all SO excited to be in the District. Monday was a full day of going to Smithsonians, walking around the National Mall, and letting the kids get the feel of the area. We watched as they started preparing the grounds and putting up the giant screens for the festivities to come. You hear on tv all the time that people can "feel" the excitement and I never really understood what that meant until we were there. You could literally feel the energy. Everyone was happy, street vendors making a profit on Obama's name and face were all over the place, and the crisp air carried with it a feeling of hope. Exactly what you hear about on the news.
Tuesday, Jan. 20: We were up again at like 4 am to get some breakfast and load onto the bus. We had been told we couldn't bring any bags or anything like that, only what could fit into your pockets for security. We really had no idea what to expect. Saying that you will be standing in millions of people compared to actually standing with millions of people are two different stories. It was still dark out when we reached DC and the sidewalks were already full of streams of people walking towards the capitol. There were A LOT of frustrations happening with our tour guide, which I won't waste time on going over, but we were trying to remain positive. Each time our bus would pass through a street, they would close it off and then a sea of people would fill it. All of the major roads running into the heart of the district were closed to vehicles and open to humans. People were EVERYWHERE. People were selling things, cheering, clapping, singing, chanting... it was like a rock concert with no music. And we were there 3-4 hours early before anything was happening and that's how the people were like.
There were no security checks where we went to. We were far far from the capitol, at the base of the Washington Monument, but since they had those huge screens, we could see everything up close and clear. Basically while you were warm and cozy at home or work or wherever you were while watching the inauguration on tv, I was cold and stiff and standing also watching it on tv :) Of course Bryan (one of the sponsors) and I decide to go get some coffee and snack before it started and we started parting our way through the people (you could literally see nothing but blue skies, some tree tops, and people at this point) and when we got to the snack stand, the wait was 2-3 hours. So, we turned around to go back to find our group, got separated from each other, and ended up watching the inauguration with total strangers. awesome.
Anyways, people were cheering Obama, booing Bush, his mom, his dad, his wife... which personally I thought, "the man is going to be President for another 30 minutes, can you cut him a break?" but... they apparently couldn't. When Obama spoke, the crowd silenced. They listened to every word he said. People were crying, cheering, clapping, raising their hands... truly, it was such an incredible energy to be a part of that day. I don't remember a time where I have ever felt so cold, but standing with the thousands upon thousands upon thousands and not being afraid, and not feeling alone was fantastic.
Cell service was cut off in the area around the capitol. There were snipers everywhere. There were plain-clothed secret service everywhere from what we heard. There were men in fatigues with binoculars near all the screens. The air was being kept clear by different types of helicopters. We spoke to policeman from all over the country that were sent there to help out. There were zero arrests the entire day of the inauguration, which makes complete sense to me because if anything had gone wrong, like a fight or something in the crowd, there was not a single thing a policeman could do. Y'all the crowd of people was overwhelming. Our kids had an amazing time but trying to stay together even in small groups was extremely difficult. The police had no idea what to do with us most of the time, which probably wasn't their fault, but we usually just saw them standing on top of buses or sitting on porch steps. The crowd was felt just like the ocean. If one part of the "current" started moving, you had to move where they were going. You had no choice. But no one was angry with each other, no one was pushing or shoving or cussing or anything. Everyone was feeling the same sense of annoyance with the police for not telling us where to go, but the tree people (civilians who had climbed the trees to watch the inauguration) were very helpful in looking out to see which group was moving which way. So, thank you tree people. :)