January 21, 2013

Inauguration Memories

I decided not to head down to the Mall today for the Inauguration. I'm disappointed about this, but ultimately, I didn't want to brave the crowds and the cold on my own, so this year I'll be watching the shindig from the comfort of my couch.

The past few days have brought back a lot of memories about my first year in DC. It was 2008, a big election year, and as I adjusted to this strange new place, I was surrounded by a palpable surge of energy in the air. It seemed that everywhere I turned, people were passionately, intelligently debating politics. Everyone had an opinion. It was thrilling for me, especially coming from the jaded, esoteric atmosphere of New York City. Here, it seemed, people experienced politics and world events at a higher level, and they weren't afraid to show it.

It was never a question of whether I would go to President Obama's inauguration. I had to. The city was alive with the promise of hope and of change, and hundreds of thousands of people flooded the city just to witness the swearing in of a new president. I remember waking up so early that morning and watching the news on my tiny TV in my Connecticut Avenue studio apartment and seeing reports of people waiting to take the first metro trains of the day from the ends of the lines just so they could be the first to take their place on the National Mall. I peered out my window and watched people walking down the street, making the long walk downtown in the dark, bundled up in multiple layers to try to combat the cold.

I put on three pairs of socks and wore a pair of tights under my pants. I wore four shirts underneath my winter coat. Under my mittens, I had on a pair of gloves. Satisfied, I waddled down the street to the metro station and waited. Several trains passed, stuffed to the gills with smiling, cheering people. I thought it would be impossible to board a train- they were all so full! Finally, I spotted a tiny free space on a train and squeezed in. If it were a regular work day, people would have been cursing and sour-faced at how packed the train was. Instead, people were laughing and joking about it. There wasn't space to fit a slip of paper in between the passengers, but it didn't matter. We were all just so excited.

I got out at Farragut North to meet my friend. We still had a decent walk ahead of us, but we didn't care. We were so proud to live in the District, and we were so excited to be attending a presidential inauguration. It was so cold outside. We tried to walk briskly, but my fingers turned numb anyway. The sidewalks and streets were crowded with people, all of us heading for the Mall. As the Washington Monument came into sight, the cheers grew louder. We had to walk in roundabout ways, as many streets were closed and being guarded by police. No matter! We cheerfully took the detours and walked on.

Finally, we arrived at the Monument. It was still a few hours until the inauguration began, but already half of the National Mall was full. We couldn't see the Capitol, but the jumbotrons that lined the Mall ensured that we would all get a view. Around me, people stamped their feet, trying to regain feeling in their toes and blew on their gloves, trying to warm their fingers. Again, it was so cold. The insides of my ears hurt, and my hands felt useless. Still, we waited.

It was worth it. I cried when I saw President Obama's face on the screens. The rest of the crowd cheered, cried, sang, and did about just about anything they could to try to express how moved they were. This was a day of hope, and we were there. We were there.

We laughed when the specific words of the swearing in were fumbled. We took photos of the screens and tried to text our friends and families, though it would be another hour before any messages could be sent. There were just too many of us. There were so many of us.

Afterwards, frozen to the bone, I made the six-mile walk home, stopping in Dupont Circle to get a box of cupcakes. No inauguration, I thought, should pass without a cupcake. When I got back home, my entire body hurt. I couldn't move my fingers. I was so tired. I was so cold. So I wrapped myself up in a blanket on the couch, reached for a cupcake, and watched the parade on my TV. Fatigue took over, and I eventually drifted off into an exhausted sleep.

That was my Inauguration memory. Today, somebody else will make theirs. Today, I am proud to have made DC my home. I am proud to have I was there memories of so many moments over the past few years.