I was there. With five colleagues and 50 students. On the National Mall.
What a marvelous experience. To be with all those people, which I believe they're estimating to be right around 800,000, was electrifying to say the least. The energy was palpable.
We boarded a charter bus that left our high school at 10:30 pm on Sunday. We drove to Rockville and ate a "breakfast" at Denny's right around 3 am. That poor Denny's manager nearly fell over when he saw the 56 of us walk in so early in the morning. He was extremely accommodating of our large group and even called in reinforcements to come help his two lonely servers and one cook. We got to the Shady Grove Metro stop and rode into DC. By the time we stepped out into the chilled morning air of the DC streets it was nearly 5:30 am. We made our way towards the Mall, weaving our way past the Smithsonian museums and the US National Archives and Records Administration - which for the record, is a magnificently beautiful building. In fact, ALL the buildings in DC are magnificent. I had never been which I'm sure was apparent from the wide-eyed look of wonder on my face. I couldn't stop smiling. And I have to admit that when we finally reached the Mall, the Washington Monument before us in all its glory and perfection - I could not help but tear up a little. Behind us in the far, far distance I could make out the lit figure of Lincoln in his seat and was sad we would not be able to see more of DC on this trip. It was then that I decided I'd need to return with Big Red, soon, and walk these streets with time, proper tennis shoes, and my camera. And when it's a little warmer.
We took our spots on the Mall about half a mile from the capitol building around 6 am, and well, stood there. And sat there. And tried to sleep snuggled into each other there. And made trips to the revoltingly foul port-a-potties there. And ate snacks there until just before 11 am when the ginormous screens alongside the right of the Mall began showing motorcades of the important folks making their way to the capitol building. And then we waved and cheered our flags as Obama was sworn in.
I'm no history buff, nor am I particularly patriotic. I could have stayed home and avoided much of the discomfort of the day, but then I wouldn't have been there. It is an experience I won't likely forget and one I'm not likely to repeat - that is, unless a woman is sworn in. Then I'd have to seriously reconsider. And if you saw any of the images or news coverage of those of us standing shoulder to shoulder - I was the one waving the flag.