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January 21, 2009
We talked about what time to get to the Hill this morning and
eventually settled on 8 AM, when the security checkpoint was supposed to
open. Many thoughts went into when
we should leave, and eventually we decided to go with the outer reach of our toe
warmers: 5 hours! It’s hard to
imagine what this morning will look like!
The Metro stations close to us are not open. Folks have been advised to walk anywhere
within a 2 mile perimeter of their final destination. It’s still dark outside, and I have not
yet succumbed to my desire to turn on the TV and see what’s going on, because
Jie and Amy are still happily sleeping.
Sleeping despite numerous sirens, occasional yelling and screaming, and
Here is my kit for the journey: iPhone (fully charged), Jie’s binoculars
(in my pocket), 3 protein bars (you never know), the all-important tickets,
drivers’ license, credit card, fifty bucks for souvenirs- taxis- food, lip balm,
hand and foot warmers, a pen…I think that’s it. I may regret not taking a water
bottle; I’m not taking a poncho and am hoping rumors of snow are ill-founded, as
no umbrellas are allowed.
So, on to the events of the day, friend and teenaged daughter
in tow. I don’t know how much I’ll
embarrass my daughter today, but two things are certain: 1), I will, and 2), I am not holding
myself back today!!!
Well, it was COLD.
We left at 7:15 and headed for the “Silver Section” – the spot the least
prestigious ticketholders were assigned-- where we would stand. We took the 3rd
street freeway tunnel underneath the Capitol since we
could only access it from the south side, and we were staying on the north. It was wonderful and odd to be with a
horde of people walking on an interstate.
Once we got out of the tunnel, we commenced to stand in a huge, endless,
sea of people who were trying to get to access points on the mall. As always, we chatted with people around
us about where they were from and how excited they were.
I am proud to say that I wasn’t one bit cold, unlike my
shivering daughter and whining friend.
My Minnesota clothes stood me well in the whipping wind: leggings, lined
wool pants, a turtleneck, a boiled wool sweater, a parka with hood designed for
-10 degree weather, a scarf, a hat, a hood, incredibly thick mittens, and I put
toe warmers inside my sneakers.
We arrived at our place to stand about 9:30 AM after our
two-hour trek. “When is it going to STAARTTT?” someone near me asked
repeatedly. “It’s started,” I told
her. “This is what we came
for. This, right now. Standing here with all these
people. We could have seen and
heard the actual inauguration much better on TV…we came here for THIS.”
You, who watched the ceremony on TV, saw things more clearly
than I did, but my reactions were not blurred. Rick Warren’s invocation was very
painful for me to hear. It is
painful to hear someone talk about “everyone” being worthy of dignity, and have
reason to believe that you are not part of “everyone.” When he closed with the Lord’s prayer,
there were folks around me murmuring along with him, and I knew that, for
them, it was soothing. However for me, that prayer will always
evoke elementary school in West
Virginia, when everyone but me would say that prayer
daily, right after the Pledge of Allegiance…a daily reminder that my Unitarian
family was different, that I didn’t fit in. I was glad to hear Warren mention being with
people who disagreed, but were civil to one another. On the other hand, Pastor Joseph
Lowery’s closing prayer was soothing balm for me. His words were so inclusive, and his use
of familiar words from his particular tradition – including the words to the
African American National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” -- reached out to
hold everyone. Lowery’s comical and
heartfelt style proved a great way to close the inauguration ceremony.
It took us only ninety minutes to stumble home again. As we walked back through the tunnel,
people chanted, “OBAMA” as always, and I found myself chanting “PRESIDENT. OBAMA.” It still doesn’t feel real, but there it
is, the reality that comes from a relatively brief ceremony, held every four
years in our country. Back at the
apartment, Jie and I ate a bite, watched a little of the parade on TV, and fell
into deep, exhausted sleep.
Refreshed from my nap, I got dressed for the Peace Ball that
would soon begin. Jie, still deep
in sleep after two overnights with friends and a wildly successful concert, was
thrilled to have a night alone at the apartment. Now, off to the festivities!
Rev. Meg A. Riley
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Last updated on Thursday, June 3, 2010.
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