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Looking Back at the 2009 Inauguration

The re-election of President Barack Obama for a second term has me thinking back to his first inauguration in 2009. What an amazing experience that was.

I wasn’t interested in attending the inauguration. During the years that I’d lived in Washington, D.C., both Presidents Reagan and Clinton were inaugurated twice but I never felt compelled to take the 15-minute metro ride to the Mall to attend any of them.

Blame the cold. No matter how mild the winter, come inauguration weekend, the temperature would drop so low that it was always an easier decision to stay home and watch the event on television than be outside in the bone-chilling cold.

Blame disinterest. As a recent immigrant,  American politics didn’t capture my interest. I didn’t know the players, and even though only a few blocks separated us, the person holding the most important job in the most important country in the world, didn’t make a direct difference in my world.

President Obama’s inauguration made me feel differently. As a black person, I felt an obligation to witness history. So I bought thermals, and fleece socks, packed my sweats, hand warmers, gloves and scarves, and boarded Amtrak (I had moved to New York City by then) a few days before the inaugural weekend.

The cold Washington air crackled with energy and excitement. A sea of people bustled through Union Station, their voices echoing off the ceiling, creating a buzz of its own. I’ve always found Washington to be a friendly place, but that weekend, everyone seemed friendlier, some downright giddy. As my cousin and I walked around the city, strangers greeted each other and conversations started as if people were picking up the threads they had dropped some time before.

The 2009 inauguration set a record. It was one of the largest gatherings in Washington, DC. It was also one of the coldest January weekends I’ve ever experienced in the Nation’s Capital. [Read more…]