Friday, January 23, 2009
We The People
Inauguration morning began for me in the soft darkness of dawn when my nephew dropped 6 of us off on the Virginia side of the Potomac. Our breath puffing out in clouds, our muffled footsteps the only noise, we walked on a pathway between the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. It seemed fitting. The headstones of the young men, most no older than our three sons, served as a reminder of the price that has been paid throughout the years so that we could be doing exactly what we were doing. We were about to witness and celebrate the exchange of power -- an exchange that had come about peacefully. An exchange that we were all responsible for.
My eyes were wet from more than just the cold.
We crossed Memorial Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial in front of us, the sun rising behind it. The enormity of the day, of the change that had come, pulled us forward.
By 7:30, my husband and I were in place on the Mall, midway between the Washington Memorial and the Capitol.
I'd wondered how we'd while away the time until the ceremony began four hours later, but I had no need to worry. On the Jumbotron in front of us, the "We Are One" HBO concert from Sunday afternoon was being shown. So we danced ("Shout" with Garth Brooks) and sang (with Stevie and Usher and Shakira) and cried (Springsteen's "The Rising" with a gospel choir). The spirit of celebration and change and hope filled the crowd.
And then it all began.
And I'd thought I'd know how I'd feel, worried that I might be underwhelmed. I mean, what could compare to election night and his words in Grant Park? But this was so much bigger. I was witnessing history, a specific moment when everything changed and the world watched.
His words rang out and I felt myself relax. I trust him and his slim shoulders and his huge brain to carry the weight of the United States. I know the road ahead will be long and rough--but I trust him to lead the way.
He's already banned torture. With one flick of his pen, one scrawl of his signature.
And I was there. Along with several million other folks who I will never see again. But for that morning, we were family, united in hope and pride and optimism.
I'm still feeling the warmth.