I think I can speak for all of us on this trip when I say that sirens do not phase me. When speaking with my father this evening, I could hear the concern on his voice when he asked if the noise in the background was sirens. Unfortunately, yes, ambulances, fire trucks, helicopters, and squad cars are the sounds we wake up to, sleep to, shower to, and have become used to in the past 72 hours. If you see a police chase in Spokane, it’s probably me because I have become immune to the sound that once signaled me to pull over.
When I tumbled out of my wooden bunk bed at four in the morning, I was alarmed that my friends in Spokane were still awake and text-messaging me ‘good night’ whilst I responded ‘good morning’. Today’s game plan looked something like this: wake up, have breakfast with Congressman Mike Thompson at 8, leisurely stroll into our ticketed area by the reflecting pool, watch the inauguration and then stroll to the Anheuser Busch/Honeywell parade watching party where we would be the ‘belles of the ball’. However, in reality, our day went something like this:
4 a.m.—Wake up, shower, dress.
6:30 a.m.—Walk to Starbucks, pick up coffee and breakfast and begin trek to Capitol.
7:00 a.m.—Begin to see swarms of people lining up around the city blocks just to enter the Metro system. Immediately understand that the route our tickets advised us to take via Metro was no longer a good idea. Walk with the masses.
7:15 a.m.-_Abruptly stopped in a horde of angry people chanting, “Open the gates! Open the gates!” Stupidly wait with these people after being told ticket holders must go through these gates as well.
8:00 a.m.—Became fed up and after talking to an ABC correspondent, we took his advice and attempted another route.
8:30 a.m. -- Stupidly paid 30 dollars for a very short bike ride to a tunnel.
9:300 a.m. - Emerged from a tunnel and found the “Silver ticket” grouping.
10:00 a.m. - Finally went to the security line for our ticket section. Patted down by security guards.
10:05 a.m.—Took pictures in front of Capitol, called family members, looked at Capitol. Realized that because jumbo-trons aren’t pretty, they weren’t placed in ticket holding areas, making any view of Obama and friends look like ants.
10:15a.m. - Began trek to the Anheuser Busch/Honeywell party.
11:00 a.m.—After being pummeled by angry ticket holders not able to get into Inauguration, walking back through the tunnel, and briefly loosing each other in a crowd, we arrived at the party and collapsed in the lobby.
11:05 a.m.—Sat down in the plush 5th floor overlooking the Capitol and parade route, stuffed our faces with catered food and beverages.
4:00 p.m.—After chatting with numerous people in powerful positions, eating our fill of good food, and viewing Inauguration activities, we were saddened to leave and have to walk home.
4:15 p.m.—Feet went numb/ lost feeling, knees were buckling, hailed a cab home.
5:00 p.m.—Went to bed, passed out. Awoke a few hours later, ordered a pizza, and we collapsed once more. Feeling in feet still missing.
Our experience yesterday was completely unexpected and although things went haywire, we made the best of it. We met and chatted with so many people, sang happy birthday to three different complete strangers (yes, it was legitimate), met families from Zimbabwe, Peru, Puerto Rico, England, and numerous states, political figures, and lobbyists. However, the same theme remained: No matter what happened to each person that day that could have turned a beautiful moment into a disappointing one, each individual understood that the underlying theme of this occasion was unity as a country. No matter where we went, people of all races, religions, viewpoints, social and marital status, and age were all there for one reason: to support this great country and what it stands for.