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Capitol Mall musings

Oakland Tribune Managing Editor Pamela Turntine blogs from Washington D.C.
What a day.

Back in the confines of a warm, toasty room where I can begin to feel my toes and the right side of my face again, I can begin to gather my thoughts of an eventful day from start to finish.

Like many among the multitude who came to Washington, D.C., by plane, train, automobile and bus, watching Barack Hussein Obama take the oath of the presidency outweighed the frigid cold weather that had people bundled up like Eskimos and the botched exit plan that had folks scrambling from one end of the National Mall to the other after all was said and done.
The plan to board Metro, the reliable D.C. rapid transit system, before the rooster crows fell a little short. But had it gone as planned, these hands would be receiving de-icing treatment at the local hospital. Getting on wasn’t so bad. Standing was expected and so was getting packed like sardines as more folks hoping to get a glimpse of history squeezed in.

After exiting Metro, not so swiftly, since this Metro stop was a popular one among the hoards, finding which way to get onto the Mall was interesting to say the least since so many streets were closed to the public and there seemed to be few people who could give you a right answer. Many of the police didn’t know either, or if they did, they weren’t cooperating with the confused souls searching for the right way into the inauguration gates. After several missed calls, Eureka, guides sporting red bennies, we found out, were more than happy to lead us in the right direction. Apparently, everyone else finally got the message or they just fell in line hoping someone knew where they were going.

Indeed, someone did. After hitting the pavement for a good 45 minutes, we made it to the Mall with plenty of time to spare and chat with folks.We camped out at the Veterans Memorial; took a picture by the stoned etched California, before settling on a spot where we had a great view of two jumbotrons.

People from all walks of life came to witness Obama assume the duties as the leader of the Free World, and judging from their response none went away disappointed.

Here’s what some had to say:

Laura Mills, a retired educator from Detroit who campaigned for Obama and rolled into town on the Obama Express bus, said she was “elated to be here.”

“During the campaign I just knew he was going to become president. … He knew the issues and presented them to the people.”

Like Mills, Damany Ganbdy, 32, also from Detroit, has a lot of faith in President Obama and understands the enormous task ahead for the 44th president.
He said people will back President Obama as long as they see steps being made toward progress. “As long as people realize it’s going to take time,” he said.

Robert Harvey, 58, a former Oakland resident living on Long Island with his wife and child, was surprised his zenophobic father, who was born in 1925, voted for Obama. Like many, this was his first inauguration. As someone who leans far to the left, he said he was drawn to Obama’s character. One thing he wished he would have heard in Obama’s speech was “what kind of service he wants people to engage in.”

After the ceremonies we set out to meet a family member from Atlanta. What a failed attempt that was. We ended up in a massive foot traffic jam, being stuck at one point for more than 20 minutes, and then we gave up hope of finding her at all, we looked to escape the hoards of people and seek shleter in a warm place. Ha! What a joke. Because the north side of the Mall was off-limits due to the parade, it created chaotic scene of millions of people looking for a way out. Some found there way sooner than others, but many people were jammed at Metro stops that were closed.

We walked back down toward the Lincoln Memorial and eventually wound up on Metro after resturants were booked solid with reseverations, so we headed back to our warm hospitality where our toes slowly but eventually thawed out.

Things that made people laugh:

When the announcer said on more than one occasion, “You may sit down now.” That got more than a chuckle from the millions standing like soldiers.

And when he would say “Please stand” everyone looked around amused.

The economy was alive and well among street vendors hawking everything from the Obama scent (hmmm) to Obama currency.

A Washington Post carrier tried to make a buck — literally — by trying to sell the day’s paper off the press for $3 when it clearly said $2. I went elsewhere and got 10 for $20.

-Pamela Turntine

Posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
Under: Inauguration 2009, Uncategorized | No Comments »