Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The Inauguration of Barack Obama
…we were transported home last night by an amazing taxi driver. She asked to hear our story and said we were the eyes, ears and feet for those who did not make the trip to the US Presidential Inauguration.
So, before I talk to another friend or family member on the phone, here are some of the highlights of the trip.
We boarded our plane in Chicago bound for Washington, DC. It had the feel of a charted flight. The excitement on the plane was palpable. As the plane landed, people clapped.
Sunday afternoon we attended the pre Inauguration concert, We Are One, on the Washington Mall at the foot for the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. It was star studded. While we were waiting for the live concert to begin, they played THE AMERICAN PRAYER!
It precipitated a river of tears. It is my VERY FAVORITE song of the presidential campaign.
I am thrilled to have located a website where you can experience the WE ARE ONE concert for yourself.
Please, please, please, if you can, watch it by clicking here. It speaks to Obama’s vision of the past, present and future of this remarkable country thru song, film and the spoken word.
Forest Witaker’s comments about the arts was amazing. When I find the text online, I will post it.
We also had a chance to sing “This Land is Your Land” with Pete Seger. How cool is that?
My heart was soaring along with everyone else’s standing at the base of the Washington memorial.
Later, Jamie Fox asked “who out there is from Chi (Chicago) town?”
We raised our hand…we were the only ones within sight from Chicago. After feeling so out of place 4 years ago at Bush’s inauguration, I can’t tell you how nice it was to feel like we were the ambassadors of President Obama’s home town….very, very cool.
Monday night at 7:30, after spending much of the day with non inaugural events, we decided to see what the pulse of the city was. It was like New Years Eve magnified by 10 fold but even better because everyone was so happy and connecting with each other about their joy and excitement over the incoming administration.
We left our hotel room and passed the Hiton where many events were held. Multiple glass tinted black cars were pulling out of the driveway. We soon learned that the bipartisipan dinner in honor of Senator John McCain was just ending. We saw David Axelrod, senior advisor to President Obama, intently checking his cell phone messages. I was soooooo excited. The previous week I had coffee with a woman who I met thru phone banking during the campaign who knew him years ago in college at the University of Chicago. I went up to David and introduced myself and told him about this person. He couldn’t have been nicer and asked what she was doing. What a thrill it was to have met him.
Before leaving home I heard a wonderful piece on Chicago Public Radio about the Big Shoulders Ball organized by The Hideout at the Black Cat Lounge in DC that was featuring all Chicago musicians. It captured my imagination as they talked about the all night bus ride into the capital. Well, we walked to the Black Cat (passing Ben's Chilli bowl that had a long line of revelers)
only to find there were no tickets to be had. We waited outside for a bit and eventually struck up a conversation with the driver of the Chicago bus who was outside for a cigarette break. He filled us in on the details. We took a few photos and decided to proceed down to the Mall.
All thru the night there were more and more street closings (to motor vehicles). Street workers were constructing blockades and checkpoints as we made our way to dinner.
This is where I stood to protest Bush's inauguration in 2004.
We passed the Warner Theater at 11:30 where the Jay-Z (a hip hop super star) concert was letting out. At $500.00 a ticket, it was a well-heeled crowd donning interesting Obama gear.
We greeted the new day with a late dinner at the famous Old Ebbitt Grill, located 1/2 block from the White House. The restaurant was scheduled to be open until 3am. After a very satisfying dinner we were escorted out via the rear door as Pennsylvania Ave was succumbing to the encroaching lock down. As we made our way back to the hotel, the city had an eerie feel of anticipation and magical transformation.
Needless to say, I was much too excited to sleep.
We left the hotel at day break. There was already a steady stream of people walking down Connecticut Avenue toward the mall.
A sense of commaradie filled the streets as we approached the
Washington memorial. As the sun was rising, the birds were circling the Washington monument and the Bruce Springsteen song, The Arising, was blasting out of the large TV screens, filling the air.
This was one of those magical moments that will be seared in my memory forever…
"Come on up for the rising_Come on up, lay your hands in mine"
We settled into our viewing spot perched on top of the hill under the Washington monument with a clear view from the mall to the US Capitol building. This was the dawning of a new day in the history of the world.
4 hours later I watched the sunset aboard a plane headed back to Chicago and for the first time in my life I saw the green flash.
What a blessed time this is.