January 18, 2009
Saturday night, we all sat around and strategized about how best to get to the Lincoln Memorial the next day. Steven wanted to experience those “crush conditions” the Metro text alerts kept warning about. Allen and I debated bus stops. Brandi and I shook our heads every time the word Metro came up. We finally decided on two buses, one to Ballston and the next to Farrugut Square, and we went upstairs to lay out our layers for the next day.
Sunday morning, we went outside to catch the bus to Ballston, but we determined quickly that we had missed it (probably because I was still putting on two pairs of socks and my boots at the last minute).
It was every bit as cold as we expected it to be as we traipsed out to the Lincoln Memorial. The wait for security to search us was short, and we circled the Reflecting Pool until we found a spot just in front of one of the JumboTrons along the water. A reporter from Kansas City ambled past and asked Allen if he thought that Obama was the Antichrist. We shivered and huddled close together until the concert started, and when it did, it was a blur of ant-sized people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing and talking. We joked to each other, “I saw Steve Carell!” We couldn’t see any features of anyone. The Obamas were ants with two mini-ants sitting nearby. The whole concert was a long trail of ants. We froze, and we had a great time.
January 17, 2009
When we saw the first state trooper on the side of the railroad tracks, we thought it was a little strange. Shortly after that, we saw a second one and started to think about it. By the time we saw the third state trooper, the pieces fell in place.
“Maybe it’s for Obama’s train.” I said.
Right on cue, a short Amtrak train ambled past, patriotic valances draped over the end of the caboose. Allen and I whooped.
Moments later, we passed the Wilmington train station, where a small crowd was filing over a pedestrian bridge, leaving Obama’s whistle stop where he’d picked up Biden. We had only been a few minutes behind seeing both families.
We were on the road to Philadelphia, not to follow Lincoln’s journey to Washington like Obama, but to pick up Steven and Brandi from the airport there, so that they too could join the inaugural festivities in DC. Passing Obama’s train was a fitting start to the long weekend.
A few hours after our celebrity train sighting, we huddled outside in the freezing Philadelphia air theorizing about the weekend – the crowds, crush conditions in the Metro, how we’d dress ourselves to be better prepared for the weather – and waiting in line to tour Independence Hall. After only about half an hour in line, we all had plans about exactly how many layers of clothing we were going to need to put on for the concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.
The tour of Independence Hall was interesting, with 85% of the original structure still intact and the opportunity to go upstairs, which apparently isn’t always available. After the tour we crossed the street to the Liberty Bell. At each security checkpoint, we had to open our coats, and Steven fumbled with his buttons. (“Move to the side, sir!”)
I hadn’t been to Philadelphia since I was about 7 and my dad was stationed there. So while I know I’d been to the Liberty Bell as a child, it was still all new to me. I was fascinated to learn that the name Liberty Bell actually came from abolitionists, who held it up as a symbol for their cause. I took a picture of Allen “knocking” on the bell.
After the Liberty Bell, we bid adieu to Philadelphia and started our drive home. Once we were on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, we decided to do an informal survey of inaugural visitors by spotting license plates from all over the country. We saw at least 25 different states represented in that last hour of our drive!
For dinner, we went to Mei’s Asian Bistro, which was nearly empty, and enjoyed the calm before the storm of Inauguration.