Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day Four: the trip home and PICTURE LINKS!

Well, we couldn't leave the city without getting some souvenirs! So, Wednesday morning we set out to achieve our mission: find street vendors.

The crowd had died down considerably and many of the vendors had packed up and headed home with the masses. But some were still around, most notably around Union Station where many Inauguration goers were making their exit by rail. We found a few things of interest and then headed to lunch with my second cousin Nate.

After delicious sandwiches and great conversation Dani and I bid farewell to Nate and made our final trip back to Brittney's house to pack up our things. Around 5pm we hit the streets one last time this trip, waving goodbye to the Capitol and all the excitement and history we had been a part of.

The plane ride home was full of many Vermonters who attended the Inauguration, most notably former State Senator Jim Leddy, and Burlington's current mayor Bob Kiss. Other than a few local political big shots on our flight, it was pretty uneventful and we were tired. That night I dreamt of the great future our country will have under an Obama Administration and beyond.

We were so lucky to be able to witness history. And we thank you for joining us on our journey. Please check out our pictures from the trip. Note that they are plentiful and unedited (I had "burst" mode on my camera so let's just say we didn't miss much).

Sunday- the "We are One" concert
Monday- the pre-inauguration hoopla
Tuesday- the Inauguration

Best wishes for a new administration,

Tom and Dani

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We Came, We Saw, He Conquered.

As most everyone has heard, we have a new president and vice president. A new era has arrived, bringing with it a changed approach to dealing with our nation's problems. And we were there to witness this monumental handover of power.

Dani and I were out of the house just after 6, and in true UVM Cross Country tradition we ran to our gate. With 4-5 layers of clothing on we arrived a bit sweaty but happy to be in line. But where was the line?! We were in a crowd of many in what appeared to be the line for our ticketed section; once they opened the gates we would be in great shape, possibly getting the best standing "seats" in the house. Well after about 45 minutes standing in this sardine can like line, a police officer informed the crowd that we were not in fact in line and needed to move.

The chaotic crowd at 6:20AM.

After plowing our way to where we needed to be, we dodged the many emergency vehicles that needed to make their way down the road. It was chaotic. Nobody, not even the police had a clue what was going on, and I wouldn't either if I was given the task to corral thousands of excited Obamamanics, including former Colts Coach Tony Dungy (who was just as confused as everyone else. It didn't help that everyone was screaming his name).

Finally, we made it into the gate and roamed around to try to find the best of both worlds; an unobstructed view of the Capitol and a view of the jumbotron. That was no easy task-- trees and people tended to get in the way. Our section may have been the furthest ticketed section away from the Capitol, but once a clear view was found, we had a great vantage point.

A view from the first of our many standing places.

The crowd behind us

Throughout the day the swarms of people would occasionally break out in chant. "Yes we can" and "Fired up, ready to go" were two campaign holdovers. Other times we could break out with an "Obama. Obama" chant, or simply turn to one another and say "we have a new president." One person we spoke to even said, "Jed Bartlett (President on the "West Wing") was my president the last eight years, but today I finally have a real president."

There was the occasional unfair jab at Bush. In my opinion, while I may not have agreed with him often, he is a man who served in toughest job in the American (if not the world) for eight years and we must thank him for his service and look forward, not boo him.

A close up of the stage.

To me the ceremony was almost anti-climatic. I mean, it just seemed like there should have been a shift in the tectonic plates or something. It was just too simple, the change in the leadership of our country was so huge. So many walls were fallen; the presidency is not a white male only club anymore; the Bush era is over, a sea of change has come; and trust in American government is restored. Yet, the earth did not tremble, just a simple oath was uttered. I guess that's why our country is so great. A change so complex, so powerful, and so meaningful can occur with one significant phrase.

Thumbs up Dani!

Following the ceremony, with smiles on our faces and a newfound sense of hope, Dani and I witnessed our President Bush make his first post-presidency flight over the vast and historic National Mall. One eagle had landed and another had taken off.

If you follow the pointed fingers you'll see Bush's helicopter.

We then made our way over to a nearby street corner to attempt to witness the parade. There was a whole side of a street barricaded, ready for a crowd of parade observers but it was not open. We waited for 2.5 hours just in case they opened it, so that perhaps, just perhaps we'd be able to see some more history. Alas, it was never opened, although it was most certainly our best shot at seeing the parade up close, as the rest of the parade route had been packed long before the Inauguration. It's ok because we still got to see some of the parade, including President Obama's limo, albeit from a far.

The parade form our vantage point. Not as good as TV, but at least we can say we were there.

It was eerie walking back up Capitol Hill. It was empty. The seats and open spaces that held 250,000 now laid empty. The security that was just hours ago tighter than a boy scout knot, was now focused on Pennsylvania Avenue. Officers literally lined the streets of the parade route, and had all but abandoned the sacred halls that create the laws that rule our great land. Things were already beginning to get back to business as usual. Another example of our seamless transition of power.

As we darted up the paths surrounding the Capitol, we walked with Abe Lincoln (well at least an impersonator) who perhaps showed up to hand over the great torch he carried through tough times to our new leader. It was symbolic of our day, and no better way to end our Inauguration, all eleven hours of it on foot.

After a much needed rest, we refreshed and went out to eat with our host Brittney and her boyfriend Rob on DC's H street. We enjoyed a delicious meal at a great Belgian joint then made our way back home to sleep, and sleep soundly.

Today we witnessed Barack Obama become president and a heavy weight fell off our shoulders. Perhaps, just perhaps, America will be reenergized and become a better people.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day Two: Monday January 19

Hey everyone! It's Danielle here to update you on our day.

We were able to sleep in this morning which was great. Tom wanted to take me on a run through the city, so we bundled up and headed out. It was warmer than we thought it would be, and I was more out of shape than I thought I was. I guess that's the price I pay for being a retired athlete.

Anyway, we ran by the Capitol, the White House, through Embassy Row, and up near the Naval Observatory (the vice president's house), and finished at the metro stop near the campus that Tom lived on last year when he was down here. We took the metro back or that would have ended up being a 2 hour run.

After showering and eating lunch we had to pick up our tickets for the inaugration at Bernie Sanders' office. Tom was very excited to show me around the place, hoping that he would be able to introduce me to some of the people he worked with last year. When Tom was down in DC last spring he interned for Bernie two days a week. We picked up our tickets but didn't get to see many people in the office since it is Martin Luther King Day and they were given the day off. Tom gave me a tour of the buildings, even pointing out to me the electric bathroom doors, and then we headed back outside to walk through the masses of people in the streets of DC.

Tom and I behind the Capitol

We walked by the Supreme Court, around the Capitol, and started working our way down the mall. But there were so many people out and about that it made walking a bit difficult. To escape the cold for a bit we decided to hit up the National Museum of American History since it had been closed each time we were here before. Apparently we weren't the only ones with that idea, and found ourselves in a much more crowded area.

The Capitol all ready for Obama to be sworn in

All throughout the day we kept seeing motorcades of coach buses. It appeared that they were parading around the large masses of police forces that are working hard to keep us corraled and safe. We saw police cars from all over including nearby Richmond, Virginia and as far as from Tennessee!

Another site to see was the masses of news vans parked along side the road ready to record history. One van reminded us of the WCAX van and for a moment we longed to catch up with Marcelis Parsons.

Of course CNN was there to cover all of the details

We got in contact with a man Tom had worked with in Bernie's office, named Bob, who lived nearby in Virginia. He invited us out to dinner with him and his family (wife and daughter) and we hopped on the metro to meet him at a DeLicIOUs Mexican restuarant. It was a great time with great people and great food.

I can't describe the feeling of walking through this city. There's so much excitement for tomorrow. On our way home we saw many couples headed to inaugural balls. While we were a little jealous of them, we both know how lucky we are to even be here in the first place.

Tomorrow we will be getting up and heading out for the National Mall by 6am. We've got tickets that will put us in the ticketed section that is furthest away from the stage, but is still much closer than many will get. Plus we won't be obstructed by trees (as some of the closer sections will) and will get a view of the whole stage. Well it's time to hit the sack, as tomorrow we're going to be pretty busy witnessing history!

The Washington Monument

Day One of Our Trip: Sunday

Well hello everyone. Tom here. Welcome to our blog tracking our trip to witness history!

It all began early in the morning Sunday, January 18th, 2009. We left Burlington International Airport at 6:30AM (way too early for a Sunday morning if you're a college student) and arrived in DC around 10:00. Upon our arrival at Union Station we met up with a friend of mine named Ara, who I met during the semester I spent in DC at year ago. We also got to meet up with an old friend, Barack Obama. Ok, Ok. It was actually a cut out, but doesn't he look life like?

Next we dropped off our luggage at another DC friend of mine, Brittney. After this we proceeded to the "We are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial with Ara and her mother. By the time we got there a large crowd had already formed and was back as far as the WWII Memorial. We passed through our first security checkpoint of Inaugural weekend and scoped out the best vantage point. That was a fairly difficult task as half of our group was height challanged (sorry Ara, but you know it's true). After a few minutes of walking through the crowd, we found our spot, about halfway back from the Lincoln Memorial, and on the left of the Reflecting Pool.

Danielle and I at the "We Are One" Concert

After about two hours of waiting, the show began and President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden made their way down the vast stone steps of the monument to their VIP viewing box, which appeared to be surrounded in what I imagine to be bulletproof glass. As the show began there was some technical difficulties with sound but after a couple minutes we could hear the music and the speakers.

In case you were not glued to your TV Sunday afternoon, each musical act was followed by a speaker. We saw musicians like James Taylor, Usher, "The Boss", Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Bliege, Garth Brooks, and U2. We heard patriotic readings from Samuel L. Jackson (he's everywhere!), Steve Carrell, George Lopez, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Martin Luther King III (who's apparently coming to UVM!), Joe Biden, and of course the man himself, Barack Obama.

Bruce Springsteen kicked off the concert

Usher took the stage with Stevie Wonder

Colin, this one's for you!

The reason why thousands crowded the National Mall

The mass of people all the way to the Washington Monument

The capitol on our way back from the concert

After the concert we made our way back past the capitol to have dinner with Ara and her Mom at a delicious Indian restuarant, the White Tiger. And who would have thought that we would also see Bernie Sanders there as well.

It was a great day and made us very excited for what Tuesday will bring!