About a week ago, my Aunt calls me on my cell phone, frantically asking me to call her back. At my office, I have TERRIBLE cell phone reception, so I generally keep it off until I go outside because it kills my battery life searching for a signal. However, I signed up for the voice-to-text service through my carrier several years ago and get a Windows media file email of my voicemails. After listening to voicemail, I call her back. Se hurriedly tells me to call her nephew on her late husband’s side as he’s a Federal Marshall and can get me into the courthouse overlooking the Inauguration. So, IMMEDIATELY I call him and get on the list (Thx Cuz!).
Flashback 4 years ago: My Aunt and I eagerly left from my house on Capitol Hill to see the first African-American President be sworn in after a LONG 8 years of G. W. Bush. It was a great time because the energy in the air, the vibe of everyone we met or passed by and the pure historic JOY we felt was electric. If that energy could have been bottled up, it would have run a large city for years. We waited in the long and unorganized lines. We sifted through the shifting maze and mass of bodies. We even (surprisingly) ran into my older cousin who also lives in the DC Metro area as well. All three of us, waited for hours for the Inauguration to start as the intense and brutal cold just seemed to get more intense as the day went on. At one point, I could literally no longer feel my toes and dreaded what I was going to find once I pulled off my socks once I got home. I was thinking hockey pucks at the ends of fleshy stumps. Point being, we FROZE OUR BUTTS OFF! I had never been that cold in my entire life. But, I would do it again to BE THERE at that moment. It was a moment that NONE of us, young and old alike, thought we’d ever see in our lifetime – so the notion that I wouldn’t be in attendance was unthinkable. Now it’s 2013 and there’s NO WAY I was doing that again and fully expected to watch it from the comfort of my home with the wife and kids until that call.
Fast forward to the evening of November 20th: My brother and sister-in-law from Virginia are making their way up to DC to attend the Inauguration as my other bother & sister-in-law that live in the District obtained some tickets. I didn’t go to bed until around 1am the day of Inauguration awaiting their arrival. Four and a half hours later, I groggily get up and head over to my B/S-in-law’s house for some oatmeal and coffee.
As we walk to the Capitol building, we joke, laugh and tell silly stories. Along the way, the others are constantly telling me how lucky I was to get inside seats for the event. Quite frankly, I considered myself lucky as well, even though it really wasn’t THAT cold this year and was definitely manageable. Once we get to the area, we split off and headed in our separate directions. They enter their color-coded area and I headed off to the court building. As I got closer, the crowd level quickly began to rise and the energy seems to be bright, even if not as blinding as 4 years ago. I take some pics and vids along the way of the crowd and a couple of street performances. Again, a great walk down memory lane of 4 years prior.
I get to the 3rd street tunnel that I was told to enter and make my way into the massive line. However, doubt starts creeping over me as the officers keep saying that only Yellow/Gold tickets are allowed in the line. Again, I was put on a list but I NEVER was told anything about needing a ticket. So, I get out of line and walk around the old DMV section of the block to see if there was ANOTHER entrance I was supposed to enter. As I finally rounded the whole Judiciary Square area, I realized that the 3rd street tunnel was the area I was supposed to enter and get back in line. Now, 4 years ago, that line was massive, unorganized and quite unruly. This time, they got their act together and while still massive, it was organized and moved at a pretty good clip. From the entrance of the tunnel to the gate, it probably took 15 minutes at the most. Not bad. I walk up the officer near the entrance and ask him about where I go to check in. He basically looked at me and told me that unless I had a Yellow or Gold ticket, I couldn’t even get into the area to even get to the courthouse at all. He said that he had to turn away a lot of people who were invited by others in different agencies at that location because they all had the misconception that the entrance was open. However, the Secret Service shut it down to ticket holders only and this wasn’t communicated (Surprised? Me neither). Dejected, I get out of line and head back to the street. I get on my cell and called my cousin’s cell phone. I figured he was working and would get back to me eventually. After about an hour, I figured it wasn’t going to happen and started making my way back to the house.
I was about half way back when my cousin finally called me and I explained to him what went down. He apologized profusely and said that he’d meet me at the gate. However, I was already almost back to the house and my feet were already starting to yelp, nag and growl at me – so I told him not to worry about it. If nothing else, I got connected to another family member and THAT was more beneficial than actually being at the Inauguration itself. I hung up and headed the rest of the way home.
Along the way, I called my wife who was overjoyed to have me home as my Virgina relatives dropped off 4 of their kids and it was basically my wife and mom-in-law with 7 kids – 5 of whom were 5 years old or younger (yikes). They all greeted me like a warrior returning home from a long battle and I got home with enough time to get settled and watch our President get sworn in (publicly) for the 2nd time. A proud moment and one that I still will never forget.
I really wasn’t the least bit perturbed or disgruntled (don’t let the gifs fool you) about not getting into the indoor, high seat to watch the election, because quite frankly when it was all over – I didn’t have to worry about crowds, traffic or the cold. I was warm, snug, with my 5 month old in my arms, thinking about the future, my past and taking in my present.
It was a great day to be an American; it was a great day to be me.
Thank you, Aunt Theresa! Thank you, T.R!