Waking up in Washington DC on Inauguration Day was one of those magical Christmas-morning-like experiences. From the moment my eyes opened, I had this feeling of a sense of purpose, one that sent me bolting to the Washington mall, tears flowing down my cheeks in the wee hours of the morning. I am not the most emotional guy out there, but I am subject to tears of nostalgia from time to time. This time before sunset brought some moments of anxiety: my friends had left at 3:30 am without telling me and I frantically rushed to meet up with them, successfully doing so with time to spare. As I settled in ready to wait, my buddy Peter and I began our rounds of patriotic pounds, bringing our fists together whenever our mutual love for America inspired it.
An Array of Emotions
We befriended fellow attendees from North Carolina, all of us experiencing a range of emotions and sensations including impatience, fatigue, nostalgia and excitement. As attendees without special tickets, we glued our eyes to the screen -- we could not see the steps of the Capitol -- and were much annoyed by the repeated Obama campaign film playing before us. When the dignitaries began to be introduced, all annoyance was put off for a time, only to be resumed when the proceedings were over, when we had to set about navigating the dense cluster of the crowd on our way out.
A Happy Time
For all the waiting we had to do, there was a spirit in the air, a positive presence shared by all. It was not as rowdy as some sporting events I have attended, and yes, the crowd grew impatient during the poet's recitation and incommensurately excited during Beyoncé's National Anthem, but the mood felt right. Two of my friends brought and wore full body American flags, and were photographed by a Smithsonian magazine photographer as well as many people all around us. They filled out notecards for the Smithsonian website describing their personal inauguration experience.
A Good Speech
The speech, I felt, was a good one. I did not vote for the President, but felt his phraseology to be accommodating while motivating, sufficiently vague so as to not offend and sufficiently bold in for example being the first in his office to mention gays. Lamar Alexander, the Republican senator who helped to oversee the inauguration, shared my feeling: I could read his lips saying good speech when it was done. Since I attended only due to proximity, this will likely be the only presidential inauguration I attend in my lifetime. But it's something I can be proud to tell my kids, should I someday have them.