Monday, 20 May 2024

Witnessing history: Washington comes alive for inaugural

Denise Rushing (back row, left), her partner, Loretta McCarthy (back row, right) and Wanda Harris traveled from Lake County to Washington, DC this week to witness Barack Obama's inauguration. Courtesy photo.


Editor's note: Supervisor Denise Rushing and several local residents are in Washington, DC this week to witness Barack Obama's inauguration. The following is an eyewitness report from the nation's capitol.

WASHINGTON, DC – Wow. That is the one word I would use to describe our first day in Washington DC.

The entire city is abuzz with the energy of this upcoming inauguration — from the airport to the downtown. I am struck by the diversity of those arriving, all races, ages ... and particularly the number of young people and families with children.

Thousands stream in, and everyone is bundled up in their winter gear – it is COLD here. Faces are absolutely beaming with the excitement of the event, mine too. Loretta and I decided that we would attend the Sunday public concert, joining thousands upon thousands in a celebration of America. This proved to be a providential decision (more on that below).

We are staying at a well-stocked condo near the pentagon, a great location—and courtesy of Wanda Harris' ingenuity, we scored a great price, too.

Our first full day in the city fell on a Sunday, so I thought that bus transportation to the Metro train into DC might prove to be tricky. Thankfully, in this area, buses run frequently on Sunday. Not only that, we are located right on the bus line and have two directions to choose from — one heads to the Pentagon Metro station and the other heads to Crystal City Station. This first venture out, we had only waited a few minutes when the first bus appeared and soon, we found ourselves at the Crystal City Metro station, buying a ticket (Metro is very similar to BART).

Our first order of business yesterday was to pick up our tickets to the inauguration Tuesday and the California Bash that evening. The Capitol South Metro station is only a few steps from the Cannon Office building, home of Congressman Mike Thompson’s office. We quickly found his office at 231 Cannon and met with Mike Thompson’s aide, Jonathan Birdsong. There, we chatted a bit about the happenings of the week in DC and what is going on in Lake County.

Next stop was the Hyatt Regency where we picked up our tickets to the California Bash at the Air and Space Museum that evening. The theme seemed appropriately named: “Flying to the Moon.”

The Hyatt experienced some trouble with its security system — alarms went off in the lobby with a female voice over the loudspeaker urged us to “Please exit the building immediately,” even as live people were announcing, “False alarm, false alarm, come back inside!” Naw. we had our tickets … enough of the Hyatt. I noticed that even with alarms — no one seemed scared even — everyone is celebrating here. Fear? Too much excitement to let fear intervene.

At this point, we embarked on our two mile walk toward the Lincoln Memorial. Each block more and more people gathered, and larger and larger numbers of street vendors appeared selling t-shirts and buttons and hats and calendars and gloves and hand warmers. The brisk walk and the jovial crowds created an atmosphere of pure celebration — all drawn to this first event. Barack Obama and his family would be there ...

We did not make it all the way to the Lincoln Memorial — though we could see the concert stage in the distance from our vantage at the base of the Washington memorial. The crowds were massive. We felt drawn to come and even more drawn to stay.

Fortunately large audio speakers and video screens gave us a view of the stage. The opening invocation by Gene Robinson had us all crying … you can view it here (it was left off of HBO “We Are One” special, too bad):

Wow. Wow. Loretta and I agreed that if we saw nothing else in Washington, that experience would have been worth the trip. What an invocation … what an experience with our fellow Americans. This common experience cemented our love of democracy, our love of who we are as a people and that we are called to renew our country and our land in these difficult times.

Then, Barack Obama and his family were introduced. Amazingly, they were there and with us for the entire concert! The music, the readings … Barack and Michele and their children were not only celebrating with us, they were celebrating US! From time to time, the camera would pan over to Barack and Michele, singing the songs we all love by Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban and so many more. The event ended with a powerful speech from Barack Obama —setting expectations for the difficult task ahead.

We all have work to do.

On the way back, I bought a red Obama 44th President ski hat to keep my ears warm on Inauguration Day. Our tickets have us in the “Blue Standing” area — that puts us to the right side facing the dais where the president will be sworn in Tuesday morning.



Marjorie Moore of Martinez, Wanda Harris of Hidden Valley Lake, Congressman Mike Thompson, Lori Anzini of Humboldt County and Joanne Peterson of Contra Costa County visit over the weekend. The Northern California group is in Washington, DC this week for Barack Obama's inauguration. Courtesy photo.


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