I had an AWESOME Monday. Probably – no, definitely – the most AWESOME Monday I’ve had. So AWESOME that I cannot even come up with a more creative word to describe it. And no, I’m not being sarcastic. Here’s why.
I bought a ticket to the inauguration parade about 4 hours after sales opened on the PIC website. When I went to the Washington Convention Center on Saturday to pick up the ticket, I discovered that I had – by sheer, random luck – gotten a red ticket, which put me in the bleachers right in front of the… wait for it…
… What’s this?…
… WHITE HOUSE!
That’s right. Right in front of Lafayette Square.
However, the novelty of sitting in front of the White House wore off after about 30 minutes. It was frigidly cold – I arrived at 8 a.m. and did not leave until after 4 p.m. – and I was not dressed sufficiently for January weather in D.C.
To entertain the blue-lipped, shivering spectators in the stands, the volunteers coordinated several cheer-offs between the crowds on both sides of the street. My favorite:
Across the street: “BARACK! OBAMA! BARACK! OBAMA!”
Our side: “MICHELLE! OBAMA! MICHELLE! OBAMA!”
Across: “SASHA! MALIA! SASHA! MALIA!”
Our side: (after a pause, with sudden fervor) “BO! BO! BO! BO! BO!”
At around 10 a.m., there was a sudden outburst of hysterical screams, and everyone scrambled to get a better look – the president’s limo had arrived at the White House.
A woman who had rushed to the front of the bleachers for a better look came back, looking smug. “I saw him!” she said. “He’s studying his speech in the car.”
Back to the crowd: there were several women wearing Obama beanies, which I thought were the cutest things ever.
Some media outlets were filming to my left…
And across the street was the presidential viewing stand.
This was rumored to be Joe Biden’s limo…
Some very dapper men in uniform passing through; wish I had some idea of who they were! They got a huge cheer from the crowd.
Those of us who had been in the parade bleachers since the early morning got a rough deal when it came to the swearing-in ceremony. We had no screens, no jumbotrons – just a radio put on speaker. The crowd fell silent and listened intently to the entire ceremony, with the radio hosts occasionally interjecting commentary – “he’s walking up” – “so-and-so’s about to speak” – “the girls are wearing shades of purple” – and in a way, I almost felt as though I were transported back to an earlier time in history, a time when everyone listened to important events playing out over the radio, when FDR had his “fireside chats”, when the lack of technology brought people close together… and it was a peaceful, surreal feeling.
Oh, and there was a huge cheer for Beyonce. Naturally.
Noon came and went. I had brought a large quantity of homemade pancakes for lunch, but ended up only eating a small chunk of it for several reasons: 1) it (the weather) was really cold; 2) it (the food) was really cold; 3) my homemade pancakes were bad; and 4) I was trying to avoid having to go to the bathroom for any reasons.
Around 1 p.m., the parade route became congested with buses. They were responsible for bringing in the hotshots, the ones who got to sit in reserved sections and the presidential viewing stands.
There was a huge excited cheer for Rahm Emanuel, who appeared out of nowhere. By the time I turned on my camera, I could only get a blurry picture.
This person got a much better shot of the same moment.
He looked just as he does in photos – very shrewd and self-assured. A powerful man, for sure.
Some more VIPs filing in… No one was sure who they were, as they were so far away.
At this point, I realized that there were sharpshooters on the roof of the White House! Their silhouettes were surprisingly large and easy to spot.
And then motorcades began to roll in. The show had begun!
Wait, is that…
… a British furry-hat-thing?
Some more awesome formations…
… which became increasingly British in nature…
THE REDCOATS ARE COMING! THE REDCOATS ARE COMING!
And then… the crowd rose into a collective scream.
Only one person could have made it happen.
The man and woman of the hour.
Barack and Michelle Obama.
My legs were trembling like mad. I couldn’t believe it was him. It was actually him, in the flesh, on the same street as me. It felt like a dream – an absolutely impossible dream – but the President of the United States was there.
The first thing that struck me: he was beaming. A huge grin on his face. Happiness was radiating from every pore of his body. And I do believe that at that moment, he was the happiest man in the world.
The President beamed and waved, beamed and waved.
In that moment, as the President walked before them, everyone seemed to forget everything around them. Nothing was important or relevant anymore. The focus was on him and him only. I only remember doing 2 things: checking to make sure that I had captured at least one non-blurry picture on my camera, and waving furiously to the President, while he waved back at us.
My favorite picture from the day:
Straining my neck to get a last glimpse of the First Couple…
Shortly after, the Vice President arrived. It was exciting, but it also felt more real – the VP is known for being a more down-to-earth kinda guy.
He was so spontaneous! Strayed away from the others in the parade and walked over to face the crowd, greeting the front-rowers with outstretched arms, as though saying, “guys, check ME out!” What a character!
“Uh… Mr. Vice President, do you want to, I don’t know, maybe get a move on now?”
The woman behind me: “Why is she wearing those heels? She clearly hasn’t broken them in yet!”
The VPOTUS was clearly over the moon…
Dr. Biden turned around, finally…
They were followed by Vincent Gray, mayor of D.C., which made for a rather awkward moment; he made a beeline for the people at the front of bleachers, aggressively shaking their hands one by one, while they didn’t seem to recognize him.
And then some awesome people (the U.S. Park Police) came by on some cool horses.
The sky was beginning to darken at that point, so I decided to call it a day and take the metro home. Farragut West was – predictably – extremely crowded; it took a lot of creative shoving, squeezing and grunting to fit into small crevices among other metro passengers. I can’t begin to imagine how insane the commute must’ve been 4 years ago.
So yeah. Awesome, awesome day. Definitely one of the top 5 days of my life so far. I’ve been obnoxiously telling everyone I know about how I got to see the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES in person – but hey, everyone in D.C. has that moment, right?