Besides the weather bearing a theme of “I can’t feel my face,” it was the mass of people that both bolstered and dampened the atmosphere. Getting around was impossible, with thousands filing onto the subways and busses. Many taxi drivers got rich, and everyone’s feet took a pounding.
The areas surrounding the Mall and monument grounds were trampled with people wanting to be a part of history, but on inauguration day, the streets became distant and were replaced by a wave of heads (or hats, I should say)—a sight no one will ever forget. There was singing and chanting trickling from one ear to the next, and before long, the unity of a country was undeniable. If people hadn’t realized the dream before now, it was this day that brought the dawn.
“There is a lot of warmth and love here today,” said 27-year-old New Yorker Kelly Earp. “I’ve been out here since 7:30 a.m., and any mean-spiritedness has been shot down quickly.” Stopping to join in the “OBAMA” chant, she turned and smiled. “Peace is possible, and everyone here wants the same thing. Obama has brought that unity to us!”
Earp pointed at the family huddled beside her. “Meet my new friends,” she said. Donita and Lester Banks, with their sister and 16-year-old daughter from Silsbee, Texas, did not look like cold weather people.
Strangely enough, though, Donita didn’t seem too bothered by the freezing temperatures. “I believed before the believers started believing. I was a supporter before people even knew him! It’s not cold because of the weather, but from the thrill and chill of excitement,” she said.
The demographics of people attending the inauguration were like a scatter plot of ages and races. From the young people who held this election in the palm of their handhelds, to the elders who were here years before, clamoring to catch a glimpse of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream, on this day the crowd witnessed a great diversity.
Gerri Bosch from Red Rapids, Michigan came with her 14-year-old son Jeremy and his two friends. A mother of four, Bosch had attended four presidential inaugurations, and brought a different son to each. “Every inauguration makes history,” she said, acknowledging that there were more black people at this one. “They might not understand now, but it’s important for the kids to be able to look back in a couple of years and realize its significance.”
The impact of the first minority to be elected president of the United States became a reality when Barack Hussein Obama took the stage promptly at noon. No matter where they were, people were quiet and settled. He spoke passionately and with ease in front of his country. Warning those who intend us harm in the future, and admonishing those who have done enough harm already, the new president spoke to everyone when he stated that our patchwork heritage is what makes America stronger. Nothing was more defining of inauguration day than those words, and nothing can be more greatly cherished for the future than the symbol of hope that Obama professes so faithfully.
“In terrible times, great people have risen,” said Hazel Todd of southeast Texas. “We wanted our children to be a part of what we expect to be the best presidency of our lifetime.”
Everyone wanted to be here to touch a piece of history, and they were there the day the world changed.