… you know, and about two million of our closest friends …
Here was my day on the 20th:
Up early-early, trek out to the Shady Grove metro to get the train into DC.
Met a gang of very enthusiastic young black people from New Jersey on the metro. They were down in DC to sell their beautifully silk-screened Obama hoodies and tote bags. (“Come on, sis, you got to support us enterprising black folk!” — And, to whoever bought the white hoodie with the brown and gold Obama print: wear it well, that thing had my name all over it!)
Changed trains at Metro Center, red line to orange. Met an older man from Georgia on the train with his son. They were on their way home, having gone out to the mall already and been turned away. They insisted none of us would get in, but I was determined. I told them to come with me because there was no way I wasn’t getting in. But they resisted my lure and headed on their way.
Off at Federal Center Southwest where I had my back-of-the-line encounter with the angry man. Upstairs where I found myself in a sea of people who all turn out to be ticket holders … which was when I started to worry that I really might not get in.
Walked from Federal Center back to the mall entrance at L’Enfant Plaza. On the way, I passed dozens of tour buses. One bus was completely decked out in Obama and DC images. It had “USA Three-Fifths” on the side, which made me wonder if there was an organization somehow connected to the compromise. But I’ve searched online and not found anything. If any of you know about it, please clue me in.
The closer I got to the mall, the more people I saw who’d been turned away. They insisted that none of us would get in because was no one being allowed to enter so close to the Capitol because all of the sections were full. But I didn’t turn back. I decided to believe it would not be true that I would go all that way and not get exactly what I wanted. Cocky, yes, but I just felt sure.
Reached the entrance, where I saw a big LED sign announcing that the section was full and police officers in front of metal barriers closing off the entrance to the mall. They were sending people down to the 21st Street entrance … down nearly all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, which is something like two miles away, but also telling them there was no guarantee they’d get in at that point, either. (Ok, here I had a moment of panic.)
I am not above manipulating a situation when it’s really important. Years ago my left knee was damaged in an accident. This damage means that I sometimes walk with a cane. When I travel, I carry the cane, just in case. When it’s icy out, I carry the cane, just in case. Well, on Tuesday I was away from home and there was ice on the ground, so I was carrying my cane. I was carrying it, not walking with it, but that was easily changed.
I approached the barricade, leaning on my cane. I spoke to the gatekeeper:
“Oh, officer, I’ve already walked quite a long way, and you can see I have some mobility issues. Are you really going to make me walk all the way down to the next entrance?” Oh, I know. Totally shameful. But in this case, I was totally shameless.
The policeman looked me over. “Are you alone?”
I was, but I could tell he was going to let me through, so I thought I should share the wealth. There was a black woman to my left who also looked to be alone. “Oh, just me and my cousin,” I said.
He looked from me to her and back again, then waved us in.
In! I kept walking with the cane until I was clear of the area where the police officer could see me, then I made my way forward a bit more quickly. I was up near the first of the jumbotrons. The people closest to me were a big gang from California, a family reunion group from Ohio, three carloads of friends from South Carolina, a couple from Holland and a bevy of church ladies from Pennsylvania.
It was C-O-L-D, but not as cold as I’d feared. The forecast had said the wind would make it feel like 7º but it never felt that cold, thank goodness. We watched, we cheered, we cried, we sang, we cheered some more, we laughed, we jumped around to keep warm, and then we left.
I walked down to the Lincoln Memorial — couldn’t go all the way to DC and not stop over and see Father Abraham, especially not while I’m in the middle of reading Team of Rivals — and after that I was just too cold to hang out any longer. I found my way to a train and got myself back to Shady Grove.
Things I loved:
- Seeing the faces of the older black people standing around me — the proud, happy, fierce faces of all those beautiful people.
- Seeing people of all ages, colors, and nationalities.
- Getting to be in a flag-waving crowd and not feeling out of place.
- The church ladies’ affirmative response to Aretha’s utterly fabulous hat.
- The way my head felt so light and my heart so overstuffed when The Man took the oath.
- Meeting so many people from so many places. In addition to the ones standing closest to me, I met people from New York City, Washington State, Canada, England, Germany, France and Mexico.
- Feeling as though I was part of one giant, joyous person, laughing and crying and cheering as one.
- The seventeen bazillion different souvenirs on offer everywhere you looked (my favorite was the black t-shirt with Barack ripping open the front of his suit to reveal the Superman “S”).
- Crying when Aretha sang.
- Singing The Star Spangled Banner with more heart and enthusiasm than at any other time in my life.
- Curling up on my mom’s couch to watch the parade for a couple of hours before rushing to get the bus back home.
- My boss not hesitating even a second when I asked to take Tuesday off.
Oh, I had a day. And, yes, I’d have enjoyed watching it at school with my students. That would have been fabulous, too. But I just had such a need to be there. It was a little weird to go alone, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that keep me from going. This was a present I gave myself … and I’m so grateful for it!