We tried to pass through the lines, which were each about 30-people wide. Big mistake. We cut through all the people, and were met by a concrete wall, caution tape and fences on the other side. Many other people were filing in behind us, so we were essentially drowning in the crowd. No air to breath. When we tried to get out, various uninformed security personnel kept pushing us back into this vortex of stress by giving us faulty information and/or yelling this at us: “You can’t be in this area!!! Turn back!!! What about yellow tape do you not understand!!!” (yeah, a parking attendant woman yelled that at my entire family).
And so we were trapped. The only way out was to turn back from whence we came, but alas, the people-wall wouldn’t budge an inch for us.
Literally no one would let us through…
…Except for an elderly African-American woman, standing with the aide of a walker. A woman who had been standing outside since 4:30 in the morning.
Ray of light #1.
After we escaped (because that’s really what it felt like), we proceeded to zig zag up the letter streets and across the number streets for about another 2 hours until we got to 18th street. And, finally, to the mall, which looked more splendid than a glass of half-melted ice cubes on a hot summer day.
Ray of light #2.
We ended up settling at a Jumbotron right behind the Washington Monument. I couldn’t have asked for a better spot – it was positively picturesque.
After all that, though, the rays of light that had been piercing the clouds all day seemed to overtake the sky and shine brilliantly. They manifested themselves in several different ways.
How, you ask?
Well like, for instance, each time the speakers asked the audience to “please rise” or “please be seated”. These requests triggered the purest giggle inside of me—and everyone else on the mall, so it seemed. It was like we were all in on a secret joke with a hilarity 10 freezing hours in the making. I basked in the shared laughter of 1.5 million people.
Or when I pinned my aunt’s Civil Rights quilt around my shoulders to keep warm. Many people stopped to marvel at her craft—take pictures even—and I basked in their appreciation of her brilliance.
And, finally, when Obama took the oath of office. I basked in the fact that splendor and reality had finally converged into one magnificent definition.
I'm thinking my day was somehow a metaphor for America's changing of power. But I know now I'm getting crazy deep on you.
That’s how it all went down for me. How did January 20th, 2009 play out for you?
Can you believe it!? A few days ago, I spotted not one, not two, but three of America's most beloved presidents - all in one room! I heard they had been hanging around the Smithsonian Museum of American History, so you know I had to go scout it out.
We caught the tail end of Thomas Jefferson's speech on something or other, and after he concluded my mom started grumbling under her breath. She hates Jefferson. While he was walking around the crowd shaking hands, she pulled him aside and asked:
Good for Jefferson, he proceeded to give her a 10 minute detailed account of what may or may not have happened with his slave Sally. Well, more of what may not have happened. I call B.S. on that one... and so does my mom, judging from her stone-cold facial expression.
And then, of course, Lincoln gave a speech on slavery. But also! Did anyone else know he had a high, whiney voice? And that he tended to flap his arms around while orating? That seriously threw me off, because I've always had a little schoolgirl crush on Abe.
But then he started mingling with the crowd, and my faith was thus renewed. As you can see, he's totally badass.
When my father emailed me asking for my definition of Politico.com, I scribbled this in reply: “Politico
is a news site, but its reporters also keep active blogs.”
I didn’t think much of my response at the time. But now that I re-read my assessment, I realize it's really no wonder the site became one of my go-to sources for all things politics during this election cycle.
Well, I found that during Obama’s run, I was hungry not only for straight reporting, but also for perspectives, dialogue and active conversation. As a blogger, I developed a deep respect for the writers who posted their words online, engaged with their readers, sometimes took public lashings from the community at large, and even went to far as to make public their online contact information. People like Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic. Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.
And Ben Smith, of Politico. Who I had the fortune of conversing with, particularly on how deeply personal this election was to so many.
Not so much because of my little contribution to the article, but rather because, through his writing, it’s clear that he developed a relationship with each one of the people he mentions. The stories he highlights are ones that his readers actively sent him… over the past 14 months (that boggles my mind!). Ones that his readers felt comfortable sharing with him. In part, I’m sure, because he broke down that imaginary wall between reporter/subject, thus creating thinker/thinker relationships.
Wow. In my opinion, that kind of ongoing dialogue—new to journalism—is the key to making a story truly powerful.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the piece. But just a couple notes from my end: 1) My mom definitely feels the significance of Obama’s presidency, it just hasn’t hit her yet. I expect her to be sobbing on my shoulder at the inauguration. 2) My daddy woulda loved to join me in D.C. – for both the historical significance of Obama’s presidency and for his own studies (he’s a professor of political framing). So it’s not that he won’t come, but rather, because he’s a professor of political framing and will be teaching, it’s more that he quite literally can’t.
In any case, the coolest thing of all to me is the fact that journalism has become such a two-way street. From blogs posted to articles published to profiles written, there’s this new fluidity to journalism that lets us all join in on the conversation. Pretty neat stuff.