It was all about the people.
Two million of us made our way from all across the country to D.C., all of us with one thing in common: the need to be there for the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama.
My husband, O.B., and I drove the ten hours from Maine, campaign signs in the windows – “Obama ’08,” “Obama for ME,” and “One Nation” – attracting thumbs-up, beeping horns and other signs of enthusiasm.
We stopped overnight with friends in
We arrived in D.C. on the afternoon of January 19, just as the “We Are One” concert was beginning at the Lincoln Memorial. Eager to jump into the action, we parked our car and gear at the home of O.B.’s god-daughter in the
Stevie Wonder sang from the Jumbotron as we wove among the enormous crowds on the Mall in the company of four young teachers-- Sherrine, Lynn, Nichelle and Jim--who we met on the subway. They helped us with directions and a recommendation of a soul food restaurant; we took photos together and exchanged emails. It was the first of many lovely encounters when strangers in the crowd became instant friends.
Just as we crested the hill under the
For the next sixty hours, we spent most of our time in that blessed state. It was all so amazing. After walking among the streaming crowds for nearly two hours just to find a place we could get on the Metro, we devoured sweet potatoes, greens and smothered chicken at Oohs & Ahs on
On Monday while O.B. was at a luncheon hosted by a
The encounters continued, on the Metro, in the waiting lines, in restaurants, on the streets. “It’s like
Rising at 5:45 on Inauguration Day, we waited in line for two hours in the freezing cold with Carla and Marlon from
It was all so amazing. Two million jubilant, open-hearted people. Sharing snacks and hand-warmers with each other and with those seated in the handicapped section. The moment when we first saw Obama’s image on the Jumbotron as he lined up for the ceremonial procession and we realized it was real, it was really going to happen! The roar of the crowd as he appeared – “O-Ba-Ma! O-Ba-Ma!” (Since when do the attendees at an inaugural ceremony chant the name of the president-elect?) The view behind us, the million or so people filling every space, as far as the eye could see.
We’re all back to our regular lives now, whether we viewed the inauguration in person, on television, or after-the-fact. We still have all those problems and challenges to deal with. But we also have the vision of what it can look like when we drop our defenses and across all our differences, reach out to each other. One nation.
It’s all about all of us.
You can see a sketch Annie drew at the ceremony and a poem she wrote about the experience at her blog, “Coloring Between the Lines.”
Posted by Anne Sibley O'Brien, author/illustrator of After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance and The Legend of Hong Kil Dong.