Turned out to be a warmer day than anyone expected. As well as you could hope for and the crowd to view the inauguration of Barack Obama for a second term seemed happy. (Someone from the Public Health Service on hand said her crew was busy, however, which is inevitable for a crowd that large.)
I left home in the dark before seven, warned to get there early because of the crowds and security. Even on Rockville Pike in Bethesda, a police escort was guarding a few buses on their way downtown.
All the Metro stations included security guards but the train was largely empty when I entered – in fact I was the only on on the car leaving Medical Center.
As the train gradually filled up, it wasn't the usual crowd. A lot fewer workers, since Inauguration Day doubles as a federal holiday. In their place, came a lot of event goers, with their maps, tickets, flags and other memorabilia.
By the time the train neared the Capitol, it was skipping stations because the trains and platforms were jammed.
I had to transfer to the Orange Line at Metro Center to get off at Capitol South, because that's where they instructed people with brown tickets to get off. At 8 a.m., it was light and the area was filled with police and cheerful volunteers directing foot traffic – plenty of signs directed people where to go depending on their ticket color. Without showing a ticket several times, you can't get in.
By the time I got through the Rayburn House Office Building and two screenings, around 8 a.m..music was already playing and the SRO sections were filled on the Capitol grounds and way back out on the National Mall.
I got a great seat this time. I never know. Last time, I was SRO behind a tree and couldn't see the platform directly. Other times, I got covered with mud. A lot of foreign press were on hand: I was seated behind a trio from Spain and between a family from Germany and a school principal/Obama friend from Chicago. Soledad O'Brien was doing stand-ups for CNN right there.
By 9 a.m., the sun was coming down and we I was glad I brought sunglasses and applied sunscreen before leaving.
Around 9:30, the official festivities began, with an announcement that Faith in America's Future was the theme for the inauguration this year.
A few choirs and bands played. The Marine Band opened with John Williams' Liberty Fanfare. Couldn't help buy chuckle, as always, when it played the Liberty Bell March, which has been usurped as the Monty Python theme.
Announcements came when dignitaries were announced arriving on the presidential platform, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who go the booby prize of being able to attend. Jimmy Carter got a big applause, as did Bill and Hillary Clinton. No Bushes were in evidence.
The entertainment featured James Taylor (who also entertained the Obamas at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree last month) doing one verse of America the Beautiful, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.
Obama's inaugural address was quite short and Kelly Clarkson immediately followed singing America (My Country 'Tis of Thee). Was Obama a warm up for her?
And after the benediction and some poetry, Beyonce sang our national anthem beautifully. Ah, we get a star-studded concert as well as an inauguration!
Getting in, the catch was the obstacle course to find my section. Getting out was slow – it took more than half an hour as the crowd moved through controlled exits. Some people complained that their toes were freezing but for five hours in January air, it wasn't bad.
By the time I reached Union Station, the crowd had dissipated. North of there, it was a quiet world. I walked through the NoMa area north of the Capitol, which is usually busy on a Monday. But with this a holiday, many places were closed. Near the New York Avenue Metro, I grabbed a bite to eat from a nearly empty pita place. I remember at the last inauguration, downtown, it was so crowded, you couldn't get a bite or a seat on the subway. Getting on the subway at New York Avenue was no problem.
And so much for inaugurations for another four years.