Mills students missed the Mall, but were inspired

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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.