Presidential Inauguration 2009

Posted on January 21, 2009. Filed under: Politics |

My friend, Robyn Rock A woman and her handmade quilt -- she printed the fabric designs from her computer and then quilted them
My friend, Robyn Rock A woman and her handmade quilt — she printed the
fabric designs from her computer and then quilted them

January 20, 2009 was one of the most spiritual days of my life. I spent it at Barack Obama’s inauguration.

My friend Robyn and I met at the Vienna metro subway station a little after 4 a.m. There was already a line of cars waiting to park. The subway train was soon jam-packed with people from all over the country.

We arrived down at the National Mall, near the Capitol, at about 5:30 a.m. Already there were quite a few people, some of whom had slept there all night in sleeping bags on the ground. (One man told us that many people had stayed up all night with no sleep, socializing all over the National Mall.) We were glad we had arrived so early, as we were in the closest possible Capitol Building free (unticketed) area.

The cold air slapped you in the face. We walked to stay warm because if we stood still in the low temperatures too long, our limbs hurt. We walked at least six entire hours that day. I heard the next day that the mid-day temperature was equivalent to ten degrees Fahrenheit if you considered the wind chill factor.

There were “warming tents” and a “warming bus” available. Just before President Obama’s swearing-in, we sat on the warming bus for twenty minutes. It was so cold that we could feel our skin defrosting in layers while we were on the bus. People huddled around the bus’ exhaust pipe to stay warm.

A man from Philadelphia who was selling buttons and had stayed up at the National Mall all night People dancing the Electric Slide to stay warm
A man from Philadelphia who was selling buttons
and had stayed up all night at the National Mall
People dancing the Electric Slide to stay warm

The crowd was peaceful and unusually kind. I dropped my flag — the Girl Scouts were handing out free flags — and a man followed me down the street to bring it back to me.

People wanted to chat. We met people from all over the United States all day long. People spontaneously spoke out loud, cried, and danced with whomever was around, as if they were among two million of their best friends. After people first met, the standard question was, “Where are you from?” California. Kentucky. Atlanta. Ohio. Philadelphia. Virginia.

This day was sacred. No matter how crowded or delayed things got, there was no anger. We felt instinctively that there could be no violence that day. There was patience and open-heartedness.

It was at once the largest block party and the largest temple I have ever attended.

We saw quite a few frail, very elderly people. We were worried about them being out in such cold weather, but perhaps they had to witness this event because they had never thought they would see it during their lifetimes.

Near the Capitol Building, 6 a.m. Park police on their horses
Near the Capitol Building, 6 a.m. Park police on their horses

We walked around our section and watched the inauguration on a few of the very large screens distributed throughout the National Mall. The sound was astonishingly good. Granted, we could have watched the events on TV at (a warm) home but it was so uplifting to be part of this crowd.

After hearing Rev. Rick Warren’s moving invocation speech and Aretha Franklin’s interpretation of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” tears poured down my cheeks from the sheer depth of emotion. Throughout the day, Robyn cried too, and she said she saw a lot of people crying.

President Obama’s speech was perfect to me, just perfect. He said exactly what I thought. I felt that he spoke for me. I know a lot of people feel that way.

Among the sea of humanity No. 1 Among the sea of humanity No. 2
Among the sea of humanity (1) Among the sea of humanity (2)

After President Obama’s speech, the crowd peacefully dispersed. So many people quietly and patiently moving at once emphasized the sacredness of this event. There were so many people that much of the time you had almost no personal space. The next day I found out that around two million people attended — it was the largest inauguration crowd in history. It was like a giant mosh pit — it was nearly impossible to walk in a different direction than the crowd. We were truly caught up in a sea of humanity.

We spent about two and a half hours trying to find a place to eat inside. We ended up at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI, not far from the Capitol Building), whose staff had prepared really well for this event. We ate quickly at about 3 p.m. — we hadn’t eaten all day; Robyn had had some coffee — and met more friendly people.

Because we had exercised so long in such cold weather, we then passed out on the fourth floor of the NMAI! We weren’t alone. Many cold and weary inauguration attendees were strewn throughout the museum, literally sitting and sleeping on the floors.

We wanted to go to the inauguration parade in the afternoon but knew we could not do any more walking or standing. We’re still sore today, the next day!

For those of us who have suffered our colleagues, friends, or ourselves being treated unfairly, this was a day of unusual spiritual bliss and great joy. This “up” day compensated for some of those “down” days when poorer spiritual choices had been made. When our decisions hold other people down, all of humanity is held back.

Moving forward, I pray that we all now focus on strengthening our spirituality and our sense of community.

Among the sea of humanity No. 3 Jean Mosher, chilled
Among the sea of humanity (3) Jean Mosher, chilled
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