It was January 19th, 2009. The countdown had begun. A group of thirty students, myself included, had arrived in Washington D.C. the day prior to the inauguration. Everywhere there was talk of how tomorrow was going to be historic, a monumental moment in history, and we were there to witness it. Barack Obama was to be sworn into office as the first African American President of the United States.
A constant murmur of excitement could be found everywhere we went. Street vendors lined the sidewalks, selling mass quantities of Obama swagger. As we strolled further into the city, we could spot snipers standing atop nearly every roof as a safety precaution. Also, all roads going into the city had been shut down, and everyone had to get around on foot. The amount of people in the streets was insane. I had never seen that many people in my entire life. It was intimidating and thrilling at the same time. It was nearly impossible not to get caught up in the cheerful atmosphere. D.C. was bursting at the seams with anticipation.
Wake up call came at 4am. Inauguration day. We hurriedly dressed and bolted out the doors to start our three-mile walk to the capital. It was still dark, and the frigid winter air swirled around us. Thousands of people walked with us as we made our way to the National Mall. My group found a spot about halfway between the Capital and the Washington Monument. Jumbo-trons lined the sides of the Mall, stretching high above the crowds. The inauguration didn’t start until eleven o’clock, so we had roughly six hours to stand and wait. I was shocked by the amount of people that showed up. People were standing on top of anything they could find to photograph the mass of viewers. The diversity in the crowd was amazing; there were people from all over. This crowd was special; there was no stranger awkwardness at all. Everybody was willing to say hello or start a conversation. My group made many friends with the people around us. This inauguration was an event that brought people together in a new way.
By about eight o’clock in the morning the initial excitement had died down and we started to get bored. It was freezing cold. My fingers and toes had lost all feeling and I was shivering uncontrollably. The waiting was miserable. My group leader suggested we sing a song to keep morale up. We were reluctant at first but then the people standing around us joined in. Within minutes a group of about a hundred people were belting out Beatles songs. It was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. Standing together, singing with all these strangers made me feel really connected to everyone. Time passed more quickly and before we knew it Obama had graced the stage, taken his oath, and the ceremony was wrapping up. The culminating applause was deafening.
I had just witnessed one of the most historic moments in my life so far. I was thrilled to have experienced such an important thing. Although the inauguration was a big event, I found it wasn’t the most important part of the trip. Making new friends, and feeling connected to other Americans was much more special to me. Being there gave me a new perspective on America and showed me how monumental this was for the people in our country. We have come a long way from the days of slavery and oppression. It just goes to show that America truly is the place where dreams come true.
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