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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration pics

Mrs D's photos are here. (Don't know if you need a facebook account to look at them or not).

I spent most of my time at the mall recording audio. Maybe i'll process some of it and get it posted at or something in the near future for you to listen. Best moment where we were standing was the spontaneous "Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye" chant that erupted while waiting for the oath of office. I thought i was at a Cubs game or something. Here's a few thoughts to go with these pictures. It was cold. There were an unimaginably large number of people there. Two hours after we left the mall, and nearly two miles away, there were still thousands of people wandering streets they didn't know looking to get to places they'd never been.

The people who run the Metro appear to have thrown up their hands and said, "We'll never be able to move that many people around, so we're not even going to try." I haven't seen a single media report of what happened at Union Station on Tuesday afternoon. Here's mine.

We made our way to the Capitol district, because there are bars and restaurants there. We know that between 1 and 4:30, we had no place to be, having given up on the notion of crossing the mall to get to the parade route. We were told we couldn't board our return train before 5:30. We ended up snacking and drinking at Remington's on Pennsylvania Ave., "one of the 50 best gay bars in America." From there, it was a much shorter walk to Union Station than to L'Enfant Plaza, and our train tickets had nothing on them to indicate where we could or could not board.

At Union Station a crowd of about 12,000? 15,000? people filled the entire intersection. A handful of police officers wearing DHS vests closed off the only entrance. Union Station is kind of like Grand Central or Penn Station in NY i guess. There are three commuter lines that terminate there, the MARC, which is a Maryland line, Amtrak, and the Virginia Rail Express, which runs two lines to Fredricksburg and Manassas. We needed to get on the Manassas train. Plus it's a major Metro stop. We got to the station around 4 pm, maybe 4:15. One of the officers had a bullhorn through which he occasionally made inaudible announcements, to which the crowd would inevitably respond with a chant - "We can't hear you! We can't hear you!" It was crowded enough, late enough, cold enough, and i was tired enough, that getting my camera out, or my recorder out, was just too difficult, so i've got no pictures of the nearly two hours we spent there.

After 8 or 10 tries, we learned that the station was closed to Metro riders. They'd have to enter somewhere else. Then we learned that Amtrak ticket holders only would be allowed in. But it took a while for that information to percolate through the crowd, and it didn't seem like there was any particular reason. And no matter how many hundreds of Amtrak ticket holders made their way through the phalanx of officers, the crowd never diminished. There were twenty or thirty people deep in front of me, another 15 or 20 behind me, and a couple of hundred wide to both my left and right. Not the most comfortable situation. The sun was beginning to get low, and i really didn't want to be there if it got dark and cold. Finally, for no discernible reason, all ticket holders were allowed in; we made our way through the station, which didn't seem any more crowded than Grand Central on a Friday afternoon, found the VRE line, and after another 40 minute wait, boarded a nearly empty train.

I suppose that planning the logistics for a one-time event of 2.5 - 3 million extra people in your city is essentially an oxymoron. You don't plan a best case scenario, you plan to manage any emergencies that might occur and hope for the best, but damn, that was an unpleasant experience. Had it been for any other occasion, yeah, it could have gotten uglier. But, given the meaning of the day, most people handled the discomfort with grace.

Our train tickets:

Family, Manassas Station, 6:45 am:

Independence Ave., approaching the mall. We got detoured past the first three entrances, which were already filled to capacity by 9am:

The view from our spot on the mall:

Next time? I watch it on a smaller TV, with a glass of champagne, and warm feet. But i wouldn't trade the experience for anything.



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