Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The View Just Blocks from the White House - The Day, Part One

On TV this morning, I saw so many people already on the Mall, I feared I wouldn't get near even the Lincoln Memorial.

I dressed in countless layers and headed down 17th street. A scattering of walkers moved south, their numbers growing until diverted to 18th street, where their numbers exploded.

Ahead, all I could see was a moving mass, packed together. My hopes were low as I could imagine reaching Constitution Avenue and being forced by security to turn back. I tried to ignore the sinking feeling as I envisioned witnessing this day via cable.

Later I would learn of all the people who had to turn around, go back to hotels or into restaurants to watch the seismic event on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC...

Still, I reach Constitution Avenue, where a torrent of a crowd flowed toward the Washington Monument. We weren't like sardines, though, and I quickly found myself climbing the Monument's hill, making my way toward a huge jumbotron.

To my left, I could see The Ellipse and The White House. There was plenty of time before the ceremony would start. And I couldn't see the Capitol.

I forged ahead, along with three Philadelphians who struck up a conversation with me.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" they asked.

"I'm native, and I live here, and I haven't - this is huge!" I said.

We parted company and I moved forward, around the Monument. The wind sliced across the crowd, dropping the temperature even further. But the countless layers of clothing I wore deflected it.

I soon found an ideal spot - with a view of two jumbotrons and in front of two massive speakers. I wanted to hear most of all, and the view of the screens and the Capitol was perfect.

Then came the long wait.

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