"At 6:30 a.m., we set off in the dark for the Mall. It took us nearly an hour to find the end of the line for our section, as thousands and thousands of ticketholders had already beaten us, some arriving as early midnight. The cold was intense, and although we were bundled in layers, our toes quickly turned numb. The crowd was thick and overwhelming in every direction, but the excitement was palpable, and any fatigue was quickly erased by the looks on the faces of the people, old and young, surrounding us. In line, we stood next to a 92 year-old black man in a wheelchair who traveled all the way from California to witness the occasion. Young children were dragged along reluctantly by parents who reminded them of how grateful they would be one day for having suffered through the cold.
It seemed a bit silly to complain; after all, we were the lucky ones with tickets.
Around 9:15am, we made it past security into a fenced-off area behind the reflecting pool. People continued to file in as the youth choirs of San Francisco took to the stage at 10:30. The energy crescendoed with the music (Annie, I know you would have particularly enjoyed all the marches performed by the U.S. Marine band). And then Aretha with the unbelievable pipes and hat to match.
We weren't close enough to Capitol to see the ceremony directly, although we were right in front of a jumbotron. I couldn't help but realize, however, that the event was just as much about the crowd surrounding me as it was about the people on the balconies of the Capitol. So much was said by President Obama in his inaugural speech: "For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies." Even with all the pomp and beauty of the ceremony, it was the dignified smiles and tears on the patchwork of faces around me that were the most remarkable."