My Inauguration Trip: Thawing Out and Looking Back

It’s definitely good to be home. While I love almost everything about the East Coast, and hope to live there one day, I appreciate the 60 degree nights of California! 

But now that I’m home, and the inauguration buzz has diminished, I’m able to reflect on my trip. I still can’t believe that I was a ticketed guest to the inauguration of our country’s first Black president. And it was even more special because I was able to share the experience with one of my closest friends, Amanda, who I’ve known since pre-school.

Also, the fact that I’m a graduate of SJSU’s school of Journalism and won the tickets because of my writing was icing on the cake. 🙂

The first person I told after I won the tickets was my mother. To say she was thrilled/overjoyed/excited/ecstatic are understatements. She called everyone she knew to share the news. In the week before I left, she called me every night to ask had I packed yet. She requested up-to-the-minute text messages with updates about what I was doing, and where I was going. She was my guest to Congressman Honda’s reception ceremony for the ticket winners. She experienced the inauguration vicariously through me, which was fine with her because she hates the cold. 

And boy was it cold.

The trip, even before the inauguration, was amazing in so many ways. I’d never visited Amanda in North Carolina, so it was nice to have that opportunity. And making the four-hour drive with her to D.C. was an adventure of its own. We saw Alice Walker, the “Refresh the World” Symposium, even just walking around Howard University (I almost went there) it was all wonderful and unplanned, which made it even better. 

The morning of the inauguration is its own memory: Waking up at 4am (having gone to bed only 2 hours earlier as we were too excited to sleep); pulling on layer, after layer, after layer … after layer of clothes to keep from freezing; rushing through the pitch-black city to the Metro, transferring trains and platforms with other inauguration-goers in a mad frenzy; fighting our way through the crowd UNRULY MOB in the Metro station, hands linked tight so we wouldn’t lose each other; running to the Silver Gate entrance (I admit that I was disappointed that we were so far away, as some other ticket winners from the contest were much closer); and finally waiting, along with thousands of others, the momentum and spirit (and size!) of the crowds building as each hour passed.

7.5 hours after waking up and 3.5 hours after getting to our viewing spot, the festivities finally began. I was relieved for many reasons, but mainly because it was the climax of weeks of waiting for this trip, months of Obama and countless other Americans campaigning for his election, and decades of civil rights tension and fights for equality in the African-American community; and also because my toes were cold numb frozen and I was in PAIN. (They took a day and a half to heal!)

The inauguration of Barack Obama was incredible, both historically and for me personally. I know how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to go and be a part of it. Watching him take the oath of office was such a proud moment, for me, my family, and everyone around us huddled together … it was the culmination of everything our country — and the African-American community (my community) — has worked for. We all cheered when we caught a glimpse of Barack Obama on the viewing screen at the ceremony, but during his speech, all 2 million of us were silent. It reminded me of election night, when a much older, African-American woman standing next to me proclaimed, “this is our new Dr. King.”

Looking back, I was right in thinking that the trip would go by too quickly … but I will keep these memories with me forever. And one day, when I have children, I will share these memories with them. Because I was one of a few who were able to go to D.C. and I was one of few who had tickets. And I would not trade the experience for anything in the world.

Inauguration Day Recap!

Here are some pics from inauguration day!

Inauguration Day

5am: On the Metro to the inauguration

Inside the Federal Center Metro station

5:30am: Inside the Federal Center Metro station

Inauguration Day

6:30am: In line at the silver gate entrance

Inauguration Day

It was so early, the sun hadn’t come up yet!

Inauguration Day

The sun finally came up … you can see the crowd below the Capitol building growing.

Inauguration Day

It was SO cold. My feet froze by 6:30am!

Inauguration Day

Standing on the Reflecting Pool after the inauguration ceremony.


INAUGURATION DAY: My best friend Amanda and I had planned to wake up around 5am and head to the National Mall; but at 4am that morning, the news was reporting that Metro trains were already packed. So we got out of the door as quickly as possible! 

It wasn’t crowded really until we got off the train at Federal Center. I have NEVER seen that many people in one station! There was a line snaking across the platform just to get up the escalator! 

Once we exited the station, it was an exodus to the Capitol building. We had to wait in line at the Silver Gate entrance for about an hour and a half — and it was FREEZING!!!

Around 8am, we made our way to the standing area of our section. We were right at the edge of the Reflecting Pool. While we could see the Capitol building very clearly and the crowds below, we were too far to get good pics of Obama and other officials. Still, we were closer than most. The general public crowd extended past the Washington monument!

Once the ceremony was over, people started to cross the Reflecting Pool! It was frozen over, but it wasn’t THAT cold…so everyone was afraid it might break. But at that point, the crowd started to surge towards the Pool! And we surged with it. Suddenly, we’re on the ice, crossing over to the other side! It was SO fun (definitely a trip highlight) and we both got our pics in front of the Capitol … until the ice started to crack. Then it was a mad dash to the other side. Once my feet were on solid ground, I almost died laughing!

Getting home, however, was no laughing matter. The crowds that flooded the National Mall were now flooding the Metro stations. All of them. We didn’t get back to Kim’s house for a few hours, and I immediately went to sleep. LOL. 

We drove back to North Carolina that night, and I spent today recuperating. I head back to California tomorrow. It’ll be good to be home — and out of the cold!

What A Day!

WOW. That’s all I can say. The inauguration ceremony was absolutely amazing. And the crowd…there were so many people of every age and race; it was quite a sight.

I have some great pics and stories, but I’m recuperating at the moment and need to sleep desperately. And we’re driving back to N.C. right now.

But I will say this: I’m leaving with some amazing memories. And some seriously aching feet. 🙂

The Inauguration Cometh…Slowly

We’re at our viewing spot–unfortunately, we can’t view anything! It is so crowded!!! We are close enough that I got some good pics of the Capitol building but not close enough that we’ll be able to see Obama.

We’re here not necessarily to have the best view, but to have the best experience. And memories are definitely being made.

We’re Here At The Silver Gate!

It’s 6am ET and we’re at the gate to the Silver Standing section. The gates don’t open until 8 so we’re gonna be here for a while, lol.

It’s super packed — we’re one big mass of people — an ever-so-slowly-moving mass of people. 🙂

More later!

A Closer Look At The “Refresh The World” Symposium

As an African-American, this inauguration is especially momentous. The fact we are swearing-in our country’s first Black president; I can’t tell you how much this means to all of my relatives, friends, and the Black community as a whole.

Some have compared Barack Obama to Dr. King — some have equaled his election to our Presidency as a culmination of civil rights movement. A testament to equality among Blacks and Whites. Others proclaim that we still have a long way to go.

So today, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, my friend Amanda and I went to the “Refresh the World” Symposium. Held in the Cramton Auditorium at Howard University, the Symposium addressed issues ranging from the economy to Black America and more.

There were five sessions held throughout the day: “Refresh Education,” “Refresh the Economy,” “Refresh Gender,” with Arianna Huffington, “Refresh Hip-Hop,” with Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy) and Queen Latifah, and “Refresh Black America.”

We watched “Refresh Black America,” moderated by Roland Martin with Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Cornel West, and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Here are photos from this amazing event. At one point, I even went up to the stage to take pics and made direct eye contact with Cornel West and Al Sharpton. WOW. That’s all I can say. LOL.

Amanda and I on our way to the Symposium

Amanda and I heading down into the Metro, on our way to the Symposium




At the “Refresh the World” Symposium

MLK Day and Activities Around Town

Well, today was a busy day! First, we went to see Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) at a small restaurant/bar/lounge called Busboys and Poets in downtown. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get in (the place was PACKED!!!!) but I did get some good photos of her through the window.

Alice Walker

Then we went to find commemorative Obama Metro cards — but they were sold out everywhere!

Finally, we headed to Howard University, where influential black leaders (like Cornell West, Jesse Jackson, and the Rev. Al Sharpton) were having a debate. Called “Refresh the World,” they discussed political, social, and racial issues facing Black Americans. It was so inspiring!

Now we’re grabbing some food — it is super crowded. The streets are filled with ppl, some here for the inauguration, some selling Obama gear, and others just hanging out.

Packed streets

I am blogging all of this from my iPhone so pictures will follow soon!

Thanks for reading!

Arriving in Washington, D.C.!

I’m here in D.C. and I am so excited! I flew from San Jose to DFW, and then DFW to Raleigh/Durham, to meet up with my friend Amanda, who I’ve known since preschool. She and I had planned on going to the inauguration even before I won tickets.

The SJ airport

View from the plane

On the plane at DFW

Arriving in N.C.

The next day, after a 4-hour drive through Virginia, Amanda and I arrived in D.C. We expected traffic and serious crowds, but it was surprisingly quiet. There were inaugural preparations though, happening all around. 

The drive from N.C. to D.C.

We’re staying with Amanda’s sister near Howard University — and thank goodness, because the hotel she works at is apparently charging $700 a night (that’s the cheapest room) and the minimum stay is 4-nights. No cancellations, prepaid.

Where we're staying

Since I’ve been here, a bunch of people have asked how the weather is. Well, it’s pretty cold … cars and roads are freezing over! But it hasn’t dropped below the 20s, luckily.

Yes, it's cold!

We headed to Congressman Mike Honda’s D.C. office (which is located RIGHT next to the Capitol building) to pick up my tickets. I took pictures in front of the Longworth House Office Building, before going inside. 

The capitol building

The inaugural invitation

We are looking into inaugural activities today — so stay tuned for more coverage!!

Winning the Inauguration Tickets

I had entered a creative writing contest hosted by Congressman Honda to win tickets; the question was, “Tell me why you want to go and, remember, be creative!” As time passed and I didn’t hear anything, plus my entry was one among a hundred, I assumed that was that. But then I received an email telling me that I was in the top 10 of chosen entries! 

After a few more days (and a lot of patience!), I found out that I did in fact win 2 inauguration tickets! Here is the winning entry:

“2 Friends, 2 Inauguration Tickets, 1 Road Trip of a Lifetime”

– Jan 20, 2009 – 
9:00 am: My best friend and I have arrived in Washington, D.C. The air is crisp (okay, FREEZING! I think it’s 3 below today!), the streets are packed with Obama supporters, and I am so excited. We are attending President-elect Obama’s Inaugural Swearing-In Ceremony today!!! I cannot begin to describe the thoughts that are running through my mind. I am so proud to be African-American and proud to be an American.

10:45 am: We’re checking in to claim our tickets. Thank you Congress(wo)man ———! The line is insanely long and I am just proud to know, that when I go back home, I will be able to say “I was there” and share my experience with everyone. And even though I’m only 23, I will one day be able to tell my children that I saw President Obama be sworn into office!

11:30 am: Tickets are in hand! This is going in my scrapbook! Now we’re headed towards the Lincoln Memorial for the ceremony! 

12:35 pm: We’re here and we’re ready. There is a band, former Presidents, and I think that might be Hillary! No way!

2:00 pm: President-elect Obama is taking the stage!!! I can’t believe he looks so relaxed! I wonder if he’s nervous. Oh, wow, everyone is standing up and shouting, “Yes, we can!” The roar is deafening! 

4:00 pm: What an amazing experience! America has a new President, and his name is Barack Obama! It is a miracle that I was here; and I will never forget a single moment. I will definitely carry this with me for the rest of my life.

Congressman Honda, with your help this could be my reality. I am amazed that I even have an opportunity to get 2 tickets! Attending the Inaugural Ceremony would be the experience of a lifetime, and I would be so grateful for your help. This isn’t only my dream; it is my parents’ dream, my grandparents’ dream, and my great-grandmother’s dream.

Thank you for making this opportunity available!