2013 inauguration

A story by Jean McGavin



We had tickets to Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration. We travelled from Connecticut for the event. We would have driven from Alaska. This was a once in a lifetime event. Our tickets would allow us to be on the grounds of the Capitol. It was cold so we needed to dress in warm clothes and comfortable shoes. We would be walking a good way to the Capitol grounds and we would be on our feet all day. We would have to leave early to get downtown and through security. There would be no parking downtown so we would have to find a place to park near the subway in Arlington. We would then have to get back home in time to eat, dress and return for the Inaugural Ball. We parked surprisingly easily in the lot at the Ballston shopping mall garage, in Arlington, Virginia, and walked from there to the Metro, which was not too crowded. When we got off the train downtown, we followed the signs to our designated Orange Section. So far, this had been easy. There were a lot of people but no bottlenecks. After a few blocks pedestrian traffic came to a halt. There was an immovable crowd blocks ahead of us. Signage indicated that those with Orange Section tickets could only proceed through this street where the crowd was not moving. Some people began heading off to other entrances thinking they might have better luck trying to get through at another entrance but as our tickets specifically said Orange Section we did not want to get to the Blue Section and get sent back and further behind in the Orange Section line. Way up ahead we could see Constitution Avenue which was blocked off by barricades through which our crowd could not now pass and through which we would have to pass in order to access the Capitol grounds. No one was moving. The crowd was generally well behaved, all understanding that no one was able to move until the barricades were removed. It seemed clear that some important limousines with important people needed to pass on Constitution before the barricades would come down. The crowd was becoming anxious as the time for the Inauguration approached. Music could now be heard from the Capitol Steps. James Taylor was singing and with the festivities beginning, the crowd became increasingly concerned but also more resigned to its waiting game. Eventually the barricades were moved and the crowd began flooding, then running through the gates toward the security tables. Security was mercifully efficient. There were plenty of security tents and tables and we made it through quickly and we zoomed off toward the music. We pushed through as far as we could before the crowd got so thick that advancing further was not an option. We turned toward the Capitol, toward the stage, the music, where the Inaugural ceremony would take place. Shockingly, our vision was blocked by a dark mass. In a cartoon moment our heads pivoted up and up and up as we sought to look over what was blocking our view. A man! An impossibly tall man was in front of us! He was at least 7 feet tall. We burst out laughing at our luck. We could not believe that we had become stuck behind this enormous man – like sitting in a theater behind a woman in a very large hat. A man who is 7 feet tall (we later learned this man is actually 7’2) is not a delicate creature – not one a crowd can see around easily. He is wide, not fat, just commensurately broad and of course, like everyone else out on this cold day, he had on a bulky coat, adding to his mass. There was no looking around him. We made constant little shifts to one side or another to maneuver our view around this enormous man so that we could focus on the proceedings rather than the back of the man blocking our view. And this wall of a man, attracted a steady stream of people greeting him, including a camera crew and reporter set on interviewing, who we learned was Dikembe Mutombo. Not being followers of basketball we had no idea who Dikembe Mutombo was. I texted my son who filled us in that Mr. Mutombo was not just a great basketball player but a great humanitarian as well. Mr. Mutombo was there with his wife and several children, all of whom were equally in the thrall of President Obama as he took the stage for his 2nd Inaugural ceremony. We did eventually finagle our way to the right of Mr. Mutombo so that we could see the stage and the Capitol steps. At different points in the speech, when the President spoke of immigration, health care and especially equality for the LGBT community, the crowd erupted. The crowd was joyful and calm and apparently immune to the cold and the annoyances of security and standing on ones feet for hours. This was a day of joy and good will and hope for an America that seemed to have turned a corner toward renewed prosperity, brotherhood, and humanitarian policies.

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 Barack Obama,Capitol Hill,crowds,Dikembe Mutombo,security
  Washington, D.C.
Jan 21 2013


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