It was a long time coming, but on January 20, 2009, the big day finally arrived. Peg and Patty came over Monday afternoon to spend the night, as they didn't want to fight the crowds on Inauguration Day morning. The media had predicted as many as two million people could descend upon downtown DC. The Washington Post later estimated the actual size of the crowd on the Mall at about one million. Patty's friend Sallie did brave the Metro on Tuesday morning and managed to make it in without too much hassle.
This map shows where we were in relation to everything else.
Here's the view outside my front window on Monday afternoon before the crowds began to arrive. That tent in front of Au Bon Pain turned out to be a first-aid station. The tall tan building on the right served as transition headquarters for the Obama team in the weeks between the election and the inauguration. Security got crazy around here for a while, but as time went on things seemed a bit quieter. See those Jersey barriers in the street? They're all gone now and the streets are open to traffic, though as I type this on January 25, I see the parking meters are still covered with orange hoods. Looks like we're not quite back to normal yet.
By the afternoon of Monday the 19th, big fences had already gone up along Indiana Ave outside my window. That's the Navy Memorial and Pennsylvania Ave. visible at the top of the picture. A big crowd has gathered at 7th and Indiana around Starbucks. I counted four stretch limos parked on the street at one point. There must have been a party somewhere nearby. I wasn't invited. Surely an embarrassing oversight on somebody's part.
Just then a crane truck arrived and began planting Jersey barriers here, there, and everywhere.
After the sun went down, things just kept getting crazier.
At one point a big caravan of black limos followed closely by an ambulance (wonder who that could have been?) came zooming through the intersection with lights and sirens blazing -- until the lead cars realized there was no way they were going to take that shortcut down Indiana Ave -- too many Jersey barriers in the way -- so everybody did a U-turn outside my window and off they went again into the crazy night. There they all go. I slept with earplugs.
The next morning we we awoke around 7:30 to find almost no activity outside. Amazing! So we fiddled around, planning to go outside and pass easily through security at the end of Indiana Ave. It would be a cinch! There were only a few people at the checkpoint. Then around 8:15 we noticed on TV that somebody was being interviewed across the street in front of Au Bon Pain. Seems there was a huge crowd around the corner at a security checkpoint on 7th Street and nobody realized there was an additional way in just a short distance away. The crowd must have been watching TV, because suddenly the street was full of people running, darting, rushing down Indiana Ave. And before you knew it, the line to get through security (if you can call that a "line") had grown just a bit.
Well, we weren't going to let a minor mob get in our way, so out on the street we went, bundled in layer upon layer of warm clothing. The temperature was in the 20s, but aside from that it was a pretty day.
There's Peg with my condo building in the background. What kind of shades are those?
Looking at the world through rose-colored asses.
The crowd was certainly sizeable at the Indiana Ave. checkpoint.
And it wasn't going anywhere. I mean, we stood in line for 90 minutes and moved maybe six feet. I may be wrong, but I think that by this point they just weren't letting people through any longer.
There are Patty and Peg and the Man Who Pushed.
Enough of the standing and the pushing -- we gave up and went up on the roof. Look at all the poor little people down below, standing, shoving, freezing on one side of the checkpoint, and nobody coming out on the other side. We've escaped the mob -- and the ladies who kept singing God Bless America.
Here's where they are trying to go. That's Indiana Ave. on the right coming out of the bottom of the picture at 7th St. Very few people are coming out of the bottom of the picture, though. You know, I think that if we had actually managed to get through security, we would never have made it across Pennsylvania Ave. and over to the Mall. So close, and yet so far. I'm glad we decided to see it all from the condo roof.
There's Peg and Patty with the Capitol six blocks away.
And there's Sallie and Peg. Nice hat, Sallie. Now I want to know something -- how come as I've gone through everybody's pictures -- Peg's, Patty's, and Sallie's -- I find nobody ever once took a picture of Bill in his marvelous blue hat? Not one picture of Bill. Zero, zip, nada. I suspect my good friends were just being kind.
OK, OK, so a few people who've seen this web page are clamoring to know what Bill looked like on the big day. Luckily his timer-enabled camera, if not his friends, will take his picture. So this is what he looked like. See why I said they were being kind?
Where's Sallie's hat?
There's Obama taking the oath. See him? Look closer. See him now? Those people on the right are standing on top of the Newseum, just outside the CNN tent. And that building with all the maple leaf flags? Well that's the Canadian Embassy of course.
Now it's later in the day and the parade has finally begun. Ted Kennedy had a seizure at lunch in the Capitol, Robert Byrd collapsed in sympathy, and the whole sad episode delayed the parade. But at last things got underway. We're looking down from my roof on the other end of the building. That's the crowd at the Navy Memorial watching (I think) the DC police march up Pennsylvania Ave.
Here's the crowd on my roof.
We weren't the only people on roofs. Oh look! There are snipers on top of the National Archives!
Here's the big picture: Archives, snipers, Washington Monument, and Obama passing by.
Wait a minute, are those cars stopping?
I do believe they are! Just look at those trucks piled high with reporters and cameras. And that car with Secret Service agents walking at all four fenders just has to be the presidential limo.
Hey Barack! Look up here!
And there they are -- Michelle in her lovely but insubstantial coat walking beside Barack, freezing their buns off, right in front of us, headed home to the White House. And for us, brrr, this was the end of the parade (though we kept hearing it go by for the next two hours) and we headed back to the condo to sip some special hot coffee we'd ordered from Hawaii just for the occasion.
A blend of Indonesian, Kenyan, and Hawaiian coffees. Get it?