Friday, January 23, 2009

DC Madness

On Sunday I packed up my family and headed out to DC to witness the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. On the way to DC we made a slight detour and picked up our friends, Amy and Grayson in Cincinnati. Amy was attending a conference there and wasn't able to leave until late Sunday night. Our original plan was to spend Sunday night in Cincinnati and head to DC Monday morning. However, a few days before leaving, Amy found out that she received tickets to the swearing-in ceremony and that they needed to be picked up in our Congressman's office before 1pm on Monday. So in order to pick up our tickets before 1pm we decided to head to DC on Sunday night.

It seemed like a reasonable plan, but that was before knowing that I would be driving in the middle of the night, through a snow storm - a hundred miles of bad weather. The drive on I 68, through the Allegheny Mountains proved to be a tricky one. The interstate was covered in wet slippery snow and I was only able to go about 40 mph. But as we neared DC the weather let up and we made it to our destination by 3:30am, exhausted but happy to be there. Through the generosity of one of my friends, we were able to stay at her in-laws house in Alexandria, only two Metro stops away from downtown DC and the mall.

After a short night's sleep we packed up the kids and headed down to the Metro to begin the first of our adventures. We made it to our Congressman's building by noon but when we arrived we were shocked by what we saw. Lines, that wrapped around the office buildings, of people also waiting to pick up their tickets. In order to keep people from scalping them, tickets were only being distributing on Monday, and this caused huge lines at all of the Senate and Congressional office buildings on Capitol Hill.

Here we are standing in line for our tickets.

Keith was a great sport and decided to take the 3 boys over to the Air and Space Museum while Amy and I waited in line. We waited for about 2 and half hours before we made it through security and into the building. The time passed quickly as we chatted with our fellow line mates. Everyone had a story to tell, and seemed to be happy and upbeat. No one complained about the cold or the long wait, people were genuinely thrilled to be there, and that seemed to be the case everywhere we went. There was a true spirit that could be felt all around the city, not only with the inaugural attendees but also with the Metro workers, the volunteers and just about everyone we encountered.

Once inside the Raymond building we found out that our Congressman was no longer handing out tickets from that office and we had to go to yet another building. The staffers were very helpful and friendly and pointed us in the right direction. Thankfully we didn't have to stand in line again and could take the underground tunnels instead. Once inside our Congressman's office Amy and I enjoyed a reception, and hung out there just long enough to score another ticket to the swearing-in ceremony.
Later that evening we met up with Keith and boys on the mall. We decided to show the kids a close up view of the Capitol grounds and where the swearing-in would take place.

Here the kids are standing in front of the wheelchair ramp and behind that is the 28,000 chairs that were set up for some of the VIPs. To the right of the chairs was my ticketed area, the Blue Section, to the left of the chairs was the infamous Purple Section otherwise known as the Purple Tunnel of Doom. After finding our way around the mall and getting our bearings for the next day we headed back to Alexandria for dinner and to get a good night's sleep.

The next morning we woke the kids up early and made our way back to the Metro by 7am. All was going well when we arrived and there was plenty of parking at the station. And surprisingly enough we got on the first train, even though it was pretty packed. However, our usual 10 minute metro ride to the mall took 45 minutes as the trained stopped off and on to accommodate the huge crowds of people that were filling up at our exit station.

Once we finally exited the train we waited in crunch crowds for about an hour, before we were able to get to the street level. On a normal day it would take about 2 minutes to walk off the train, and take the escalator up to the street. But as we waited to squeeze hundreds of people up one escalator and out onto the street, more and more trains were dropping off people which made it even more crowded.
This was one of the scariest parts for me and I think for Mac too as he was starting to get a little panicked near the end of our wait. It was hard for the kids because as we were all squished among strangers, we (the tall people) could see an ending to the madness, the kids on the other hand couldn't see a thing except for the bodies that were surrounding them. And the amazing part was, that once again spirits were high, everyone was kind and watched out for the children, making sure they wouldn't get separated from their parents. Randomly people would break out into song, or shout, "Yes We Can." This seemed to help all of us get through what could have been an even more difficult time.

Once we made it out of the Metro tunnel, we decided on a meeting point for after the ceremonies. This was the second most scariest part to me, separating from my family. Since we only had four tickets and there were 6 of us, we decided to spilt up. I took a single ticket in the Blue Section that was on the Capitol grounds, Amy, Mac and Grayson were ticketed in the Silver Section just behind the reflecting pool, and Keith and Ethan were on their own. See a map here.

I was worried about leaving my family on the slight chance that something serious could happen, like a stampede, or security breach. I knew that I would be worried about my family's whereabouts in those types of circumstances. I also worried how difficult it would be to meet up again, knowing that there would be mass crowds exciting the mall, and no cell phone service. I was relieved at the end when we all arrived at our meeting spot within 10 minutes of each other.

We had three different experiences, but at the same time had three of the same experiences because no matter where we were located, we were all able to watch on a jumbotron. Amy and the kids made it through security and to their spot by 9:30, Keith and Ethan were further back on the mall with plenty of elbow room but it also took them a good hour and a half to get to the mall area. Below are pictures of the crowds that Keith and Ethan encountered getting to their spot on the Mall.

It took me the longest time to get to my area. I arrived at my spot by 11am and stood in crunch crowds once again. The positive side of the crowded Blue Section was that all the bodies kept me warm. Not only did I have a good view on the jumbotron I could also see the platform from where I was standing.

Keith had the camera with him and this is the view that he saw from his vantage point.
I like the picture below because it shows Obama on the jumbtrons that were located up and down the mall area.
After the ceremony we headed to Amy's friend's house on Capitol Hill were we watched the parade on TV and our hosts graciously served us dinner. We were all grateful to have a place to hang out while the Metro crowds died down.

Would I do it all over again? In a heart beat! It was the most amazing experience, despite all the difficulties. It was worth every minute of driving through the snow storm, the crowds, the lines and long waits. It was a very emotional three days for me, one in which I'll never forget.

To read more about our experience from Amy's point of view click here.


Mad Queen said...

Hurray, I got to be at the inaguration through your picturse and stories! Love every bit of it. I love that with all of the hassle of the snowstorm and crowds, and lines, and separating from your family, you said it was totally worth it...WOW. I was teary all day that day too... just hopes for the future in Obama and the changes I look forward to witnessing... I felt such a love for our country... the people made the right choice. It was an AMAZING speech... and you got to hear it in person...jumbotron and all! You GO KIM! Thanks for sharing your adventure... the crowded subway pictures gave me the shivers. Glad to hear everyone was feeling the spirit of the day and was not rude or pushy. Fabulous. Glad you are home safe!

david santos said...

Excellent posting and brilliant picturs!!!

Hootie said...

I just can't imagine all those people! WOW! You all really were brave to hang out with them. I am glad everyone behaved, but still...I don't know if I could have handled it!

The colors in your pictures are fantastic too!

I love reading all about your adventure. :)

Kelly said...

I am so happy this trip was a success for all of you! We watched the inauguration on tv, and I couldn't get you out of my mind. Watching the sea of people worried me a little, and I was happy to get an email from you letting us all know you were okay.

As usual, you took some great pictures! What an adventure and great experience of a lifetime!!

Steph said...

Wow! I am so glad that you are all safe and that you had the wonderful chance to experience this amazing event!

Hootie said...

I know I commented before, but each time I look at your first picture of your boys I like it more and more! It's so moving! I really like how you captured the "56th pres..." sign over Mac's left shoulder.

It's just a great moment of history that you got on film.

son of 9ravens said...

Good for you - how terrific, and what a gift for your boys!

Yes, we did!