We moved to the DC area in 1974, but this was actually my first inauguration that I’ve attended in person. My first time I could vote in a presidential election wasn’t until 1992, and I was away at university by the time inauguration rolled around. I was back in the area for the 1996 election, but the idea of going downtown for the event just didn’t grab me. (And by that point in time I was also working full time in retail management. I suspect I was actually on the clock that day.) For 2000 and 2004, I wasn’t in any sort of celebratory mood.
But yes, this was the first time I went down there. And sure, it was pretty darn cold out, and even with multiple layers on I was feeling awfully cold towards the end of Barack Obama’s speech. (All that standing still.) But it was a great event to be at, in no small part because of the crowd. First, it was the most polite and well-mannered crowd I’ve ever seen of that size*, and that’s no small feat. But it was more than just politeness, though, it was the joy and happiness that was just exuding off of so many people.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. I walked 7.25 miles when it was all said and done, I took some nice pictures, I heard an excellent speech, and I am absolutely tuckered out. Will I head back downtown in 2013? We shall see. Who knows what four years will bring?
* — Well, except for the messy pigs. Seriously, just walking back across the Mall, I picked up no less than three discarded plastic bottles and put them in recycle bins that were under 10 feet away, and some pieces of trash as well. Come on, people. I had been joking with a co-worker last week who was a volunteer today, about how one of her job duties apparently was to, “Get people excited about recycling.” Little did I know how necessary that was. Yeesh.