January 20, 2009. The Inauguration of President Obama. It was a momentous day in our history, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of it: a frozen part, but still a part of it.
At 1:45 a.m., on the morning of the Inauguration, I rolled out of bed to the sound of my alarm clock and a wakeup call from the front desk. We clocked in a good hour and a half of sleep and by 2:15 a.m., all of us were packed and on our way to the Branch Ave. Subway Station that would take us to Washington D.C.
Once we arrived at the subway station at 3 a.m., the weather was prime (a brisk 10 degrees) and the crowd had already created a line that snaked into the station.
I decided to run around the parking lot to get my blood flowing, and also because I was so excited to be in D.C., I needed to move. This was an experience of a lifetime and there I was with the rest of the group, about to live and breathe history.
Without a doubt this experience had been magnified by the journey of the Civil Rights tour through the South that we had embarked on for the past ten days. We met and interviewed influential people (Rev. Billy Kyles, Franklin McCain) who took part in and were involved with the Civil Rights events of the 1960’s.
Around 4:30 a.m. we arrived at the subway station in D.C., which also became our entrance to the Inauguration. Huge crowds were already cheering and chanting “Obama” and “Change.” It was phenomenal! Never have I ever seen so many people congregated together for any event, and who were also completely wide-awake and passionate, especially hours before the sun rose. My skin tingled with the excitement and jubilation that I simultaneously shared with the roughly 4 million people there to witness Barack Obama’s Inauguration.
Anthony, Carlos, and I moved quickly to our destination point to be at the parade. We waited and waited…then we waited some more for that fence to open so we could cross Pennsylvania Ave. The clock struck 8 a.m. and the fence was finally opened. We crossed the street with a mass of people, as thousands of army personnel and police officers from around the nation looked on.
I was so relieved to move because we had become popsicles as we stood waiting hour after hour for the gates to open. Unfortunately, we didn’t move early enough. We reached our next crossing point where there was a huge crowd trying to pass through security which created a human roadblock. This was unfortunate because by about that time, I was shaking violently and was told that my skin had become extremely pale. Anthony, a trained paramedic and firefighter, not to mention, our driver and friend, made the decision to leave for an indoor area because he thought that I was about to undergo hypothermia.
One hour later, we finally made it inside where I gratefully drank some hot chocolate. It took about twenty minutes after being inside for my shaking to subside some. We then made the decision to go over to the local tavern to watch the Inauguration Ceremony. This was a great decision because we were able to sit down, warm up, eat, and actually watch President Obama give his speech on a big, flat, plasma, High Definition TV screen, and celebrate with the 4 million people gathered in D.C. I began to tear up watching President Obama give his speech because I was so moved by the change he represents, and because he has excited and inspired the youth of this country, me included.
Personally, one of my favorite moments during the whole day was when I began to clap, which caused others to clap, inside and out of the tavern, and exactly at 12 p.m. I yelled, “Bush is gone!” This caused an eruption of screaming, cheering, and clapping followed by a few tears from the crowd.
It had been an exhilarating and enlightening experience and I am so glad to have taken a part in it.
But…because this experience was so incredible, I am sad that it is over. The friends and memories I made and shared through this Civil Rights Tour can never be taken away, and I hope to experience more great times, adventures, and history-making memories with all these great friends again.
Night and morning.