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st. john fisher college


Inauguration Day: Connecting America in More Ways than One

Megan Baker

Posted: Jan 21st 2009 1:42PM

Filed under: Politics, St. John Fisher College, Media

Yesterday I arrived at the National Mall at 4:30 a.m. to attend one of the most greatly anticipated events in American history. It was dark (not to mention absolutely freezing) when I arrived but the crowd was in high spirits despite the seven and a half hour wait ahead of them. What did I and hundreds of thousands of people do to pass the time? Blogged.

CNN dubbed yesterday a "blogger's inauguration" and they couldn't be closer to the truth. At it's peak, Twitter had five times more tweets per second than it normally has while Facebook averaged more than 4,000 status updates every hour Tuesday morning- a figure that jumped to 8,500 updates per minute during President Obama's inaugural speech.

From complaining about the cold to commenting on the porta-potties (trust me-you don't want to hear a thing about those) to just expressing feelings about the momentous occassion, millions had something to say and they were able to say it through these venues. Even the White House got in on the action, as the clock struck 12:01 p.m. (which if my memory serves me right, Obama had not taken the oath by this time) the Obama administration took over the White House website where they wrote simply, "Change has come to America."

Since I could only say so much through Twitter yesterday, I thought I would take to my blog give you a more in-depth look into my inaugural experience. 6:30 p.m.: I rolled out of Rochester with a group of three filled buses with the group Rochester for Obama. Everyone is really excited to go. I won't bore you with the details about the long bus ride, so how about we skip to the arrival in D.C.

3:00 a.m.: We arrived in D.C. and are trying to figure out how to get into RFK stadium, which is where (from what I heard) 1,750 chartered buses were going to park. There was a shuttle service from the stadium lot to a few blocks away from the National Mall, so I joined the masses and hopped on a shuttle.

4:00 a.m.: Security is not letting anyone into the National Mall, but I (with a couple of my friends and their family) notice that people are getting in somehow. We walk down the street a ways and found a way in. Victory is ours.

4:30 a.m. We secure a spot in the National Mall, about 100 feet away from the fence that separated us normal folks from the people who have tickets. We meet some very nice (and slightly inebriated) college students from Georgetown University. They convice my friends and I to sit down with them. This was an interesting struggle because it was incredibly crowded. While we ended up not sitting for very long because people kept wanting to come in and out, it was nice to rest for a bit. It was a lot warmer down there too.

5:30 a.m.: The crowd is getting bored, so people start breaking out in song. We had a large group singing "Lean on Me" complete with swaying. People then decided to turn their attention to President Bush singing, "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, BYE BUSH!!"

6:00 a.m.: To pass the time, I decided to interview one of the Georgetown students to see how they were feeling about being here and what the Obama presidency meant to them and Josh Guzman, a junior cultural studies major, obliged.

"It would be lame if I turned on the TV and knew that this was going on right down the street. It's a major reason why I chose to go to school down here, D.C. has a lot to offer," he said on why he came down to the National Mall.

When asked what he hoped to see Obama do now that he was in office, Guzman said that Obama has already done a lot for the country.

"He's about something bigger. Asking what I hope to see him do is almost laughable because he has already mobilized, inspired, and gave people hope for the first time in history which is more than any president has been able to do in all four years let alone the first 100 hours."

6:30 - 10:30 a.m.: My friends and I have accepted the fact that we cannot stand in this spot for another 6 hours, so with promises to add the Georgetown kids on Facebook, we move to a more open spot in the Mall.

I cannot even describe to you how frigid cold it was. I come from Rochester, and I know what cold is, but this was unbearable. There were no heaters, no open buildings, no way to get out of the cold. If you wanted to warm up with a hot coffee, the line was at least an hour and a half long, probably longer. In my opinion, it was terribly planned. It's not like the planners had short notice on when the event was happening, it's written in the Constitution for crying out loud.

People were hoping to get into the Smithsonian, which was scheduled to open up at 10 a.m. The Secret Service advised against opening it as it could become a security risk, so after standing on the steps for an hour waiting to get in then being told it wasn't happening, I wasn't too thrilled. They ended up opening it about an hour later, but by that time things were starting up and I didn't stand out there since 4:30 a.m. to sit in a museum.

10:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m.: Finally things get started. They had been playing the concert from the other night on the big screens, and the crowd was dancing to keep warm. It was amusing to see a crowd of thousands dancing to "Make me Wanna Shout," as they waved their flags around and jumped all over in hopes of getting warm.

By this point, I'm absolutely freezing and pretty fatigued, so if things seem muddled here, sorry about that. The rest of the crowd feels the same, but once footage of Obama's caravan was shown on the big screens, the crowd went nuts. The legislators all make their way in, some drawing applause, others boos. (I'm sure you could figure out which was which.)

I kid you not, when Obama finally appeared on the big screen with Bush for the first time, the clouds separated and warm sunshine filled the Mall. The crowd was enamored at the sight of the president-elect. Flags were waving, people were cheering and tears were shed.

Aretha sang and the crowd fell silent. Whether it was because they were baffled about what she was wearing on her head or because it was just such a moving moment, I will never be sure.

Biden was sworn in, and besides him talking extremely loud, it went fine. Obama struggled a bit with his swearing in, but I'm sure you all know about that. It drew some laughs in the crowd when it happened, but people were very forgiving. Murmurs of "he must be so nervous" rippled throughout where I was. I was a little annoyed seeing how I had stood out in the cold for hours to see this and he messed up, but hey, what are you going to do?

Then came the speech. He didn't give the big hopeful speech that a lot of Americans were looking for, but I appreciated his honesty. He told us what he hopes to do (and he definitely has a lot on his plate) and let us know that the journey will be difficult. I didn't walk away reassured that everything was going to be ok, but I did walk away feeling that our country is in better hands.

2:00 p.m.: There was no way I was staying for the parade. I high-tailed it back to the bus and slept for a good four hours. When I woke up at 6:00, one of the men on the bus was popping champagne and offering it to the weary, yet high-spirited travelers. I heard some of the older people on the bus were not able to withstand the cold to actually witness the inauguration, which made me pretty sad. They travled all this way and didn't get to be there for it. While disappointed, just knowing that Obama was sworn in was enough for them.

I am going to remember this experience as one of the most miserable but memorable moments of my life. When my children and grandchildren learn about this in the history books, I will be able to tell them that I was there. I will leave out all of the gory details about the cold and all of the annoyances along the way; instead I will tell them that it was the moment when Americans came together in hopes of fixing what was broken.

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