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Mills students missed the Mall, but were inspired

By Josh Richman
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 2:32 pm in Inauguration 2009, Oakland.

Last month, I wrote an article that included mention of “Mills On A Mission,” a contingent of a dozen Mills College students who banded together to raise funds for a week-long trip centered on the inauguration. The young women wanted to bring the event’s feelings of power and momentum back from the National Mall to Mills’ campus, and they decided a team effort was best.

Sadly, they didn’t make it onto the Mall today. Even having caught the first Metro train from Alexandria, Va., and making it into the city by 5 a.m. EST, they got caught in a massive crowd behind a Mall gate that never opened, organizer Tracy Peerson-Faye told me a few minutes ago.

“We basically got corralled down the street and had nowhere to go,” she said, describing a scene of thousands packed cheek to jowl, cheering and chanting Obama’s name but “as the hypothermia started to set in” growing more and more frustrated. Finally, as a police bus moving down the street forced the crowd into an even smaller space, “we had to leave because it was no longer physically safe for us to be there.”

They linked arms and fought their way out through the crowd – “We had to find a place to go and try to warm ourselves” – and resolved to head for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, where they knew the swearing-in would be viewable on a big screen. They could see the Capitol’s dome from there, a bittersweet reminder of how much closer they’d almost gotten.

“But even within the (museum) building, there was an atmosphere – this energy of the crowd, of excitement, I think almost a feeling of being overwhelmed by the significance of what today was,” she said.

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