For me, the best part of the inauguration was not seeing the president.
On Monday morning I woke up around 4:30, dressed at the pace of a slug then left my nice warm apartment to head to Union Station.
My roommates, my neighbor and I had decided there was no way we would actually get to see the inauguration itself without tickets so we picked out a place on the parade route to catch a glimpse of our country’s 44th president.
After we finally found an entrance to the parade route, we stood and waited. And we waited. Then we waited some more. Finally, we were allowed through, though not before I forever lost my new water bottle and the only thermos I brought to D.C.
There we (you guessed it) waited some more as we listened to marches over a loud speaker. Escorted cars began to zip by and some of us got glimpses of the powerful and famous of American politics. After hearing the inauguration ceremony, the gathered crowd was informed there would be a luncheon (not for us) before the parade began. In three and a half hours, that is.
The sun broke out of the clouds just as the parade was set to start. Everyone’s mood was lifted but then declined as the sun sank below a building and the parade was pushed further and further back.
When it began, each group moved slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue dressed in the sharpest military uniforms as the bands played with perfect precision. The announcer then said what we had been waiting all morning to hear: “President Barack H. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama!”
The crowd went wild though it still took a few minutes to see the president. By the time he passed us, he had already returned to his car. While it was amazing to see a sitting president, I felt a little cheated to have only seen him through a window with more than a couple yards between us.
But that evening as I sit defrosting, I could not say I regretted it. I am not really a fan of Obama and I was not really that impressed with his speech, but I did meet some amazing people that day.
While waiting to go through the police check point, I met a lovely woman from Jamaica who had lived in D.C. for 25 years, a sweet man from the Philippines who had just gone to New Year’s in Times Square, two fun-loving women with a talent for inauguration-themed make-up and jewelry, along with very patient and kind volunteers.
While waiting for the parade, I got to talk with a big-hearted woman originally from Syracuse who spent most of her day helping an older couple she did not know. We also became friends with members of the Miami, Fla. police department who were chosen to come and be part of the crowd control. I asked one officer if she would ever use her police-issued winter coat again. She answered she would not; not because it never gets cold in Miami, but because she would choose not to come back to D.C. for the next inauguration so another officer would get a chance.
Together we all watched members of the armed forces and Secret Service show their dedication to what they do as some stood stock-still for hours and others spent the entire celebration on the edge scanning the crowd.
I rediscovered on Monday that we live in a country of truly loving people who want to support each other and find common ground, who will give up a little joy for the sake of the stranger beside them. I have no faith whatsoever in a single one of the politicians in this city. But I believe in the people I met on Inaugeration Day.