A Burien Brit’s DC Diary: Inauguration Day #1

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Satellite photo by Geo-Eye-One.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Bob is an Englishman who lives in Burien who traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to attend the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Previously, he filed this report, as well as an eyewitness account of election night. This is the first of three reports we’ll be posting, so be sure to check back tomorrow for his entry for Day #2.]

It may have been cold, but the friendly people in line at the Rayburn Building were warm.

It was time to pick up my Inauguration tickets. With thousands of other lucky recipients arriving to collect them too, the House and Senate office buildings at either side of the Capitol were surrounded by long lines of people waiting to pass through security at the entrances and head up to a Congressman or Senator’s office where the tickets were waiting for them. I joined a line at the Rayburn office building and really didn’t mind that it took a while to get in. The positive atmosphere was highly infectious as people talked to strangers and told each other their stories about what this inauguration meant to them, where they were from, how they came to have tickets, and what they hoped the new president could achieve. Alongside me were a lady from Chicago, a lady from St. Louis, Missouri, a gentleman from Phoenix, Arizona, and a member of the Army on active duty who was so bitter about what had happened in recent years that we all had to do our best to convince him that things looked likely to improve. He didn’t seem too willing to believe us but no one can say we didn’t try to change his mind.

The staff of Congressman Adam Smith’s office were professional and friendly. As I expected, my tickets were for the Silver section, just behind the Capitol Reflecting Pool. After taking in the view of the city and the Mall from outside the Rayburn office building I went on a reconnaissance mission to find the best place for a good view of the main event. Facing the Capitol, the second speaker stand from the left along the Reflecting Pool seemed like a perfect spot with a clear view of the podium and surrounding seated areas and a jumbotron just across the frozen pool to the left. With that taken care of, I wandered over to the area just behind the seated sections immediately below the Capitol for a spectacular close-up view and stayed there for a while to appreciate the scene and take photographs for myself and other people.

A fellow Brit found a way to get to the Inauguration.

Next I headed down Pennsylvania Avenue and over to the official Inauguration Collectibles store on E Street, watching the people and the preparations along the way. “Brits for Obama,” read one man’s badge, so I just had to stop and ask about it. He’d made it himself and wished he’d brought a big bag full of them for all those who wanted one, including me. He was from a part of Yorkshire in the north of England very close to where my family comes from and had extended his contract in Florida so he could stay long enough to see the inauguration. As we were talking, we watched as semi-truck after semi-truck came to deliver crowd barriers and forklift trucks unloaded them.

The scale of the preparation for the event was enormous.

As usual, the Canadian signage was in French as well as English.

Along Pennsylvania Avenue we walked past the Canadian Embassy and saw a huge banner which read “Canada Salutes Obama”. At the Newseum we read the front pages of newspapers from around the world, all of them positive about the change that had come.

The collectibles store was busy and I picked up a few items. It was then time to start heading back to my friends’ place for the evening. On the way to the Foggy Bottom Metro station I saw bright lights over to my left and realized I was very close to the White House. The lights marked the end of the parade route and the position of the spectacular viewing stand. Less than 24 hours later, the President, his wife, and the Vice President and his wife would walk along this route and the crowd would be wild with excitement. People everywhere were taking photographs, including two who asked me to take one of them. One of them, it turned out, was from Bellevue, and the other was from Seattle. Just to prove how small the world is, the one from Seattle knew a friend of mine in West Seattle.

Sometimes the most interesting things are signs you find at your feet.

I could have spent a lot longer watching all the activity in the city but had to get back to prepare for an extremely early start the next day. My friend and I packed our things and headed over to a place in Roslyn, only five miles from my preferred spot by the Reflecting Pool. The plan was to stay there and then walk to the inauguration. The Metro is best avoided when hundreds of thousands of other people want to travel too.

[TOMORROW: Inauguration Day arrives. Bob gets up at 4am and walks five miles to join 1.8 million other people in the freezing cold to witness the most historic inauguration of our lifetimes.]

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