The Lead Up
Washington Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
Chris got the call from Emily in early January. He had worked with her in Georgia on the Martin campaign. After leaving Georgia, she went to DC and was hired as the “Volunteer Coordinator” by the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). She was calling Chris to see if he would be interested in volunteering on the day of the inauguration. He jumped at the chance and quickly asked Emily if she could get his girlfriend Jenne (that’s me!) in as well. Emily said it was not a problem.
Chris also made friends with Steve while working in Georgia. Steve was from DC and had offered up his futon to the two of us. So we had a place to call home and official job titles: PIC Volunteers!
We woke up before the sun on Saturday (1/17/09). Chris knows me well enough that he got everything ready to go and merely awoke me and scooted me into the car and let me go back to sleep. The plan was to leave our car outside of town at Steve’s friend’s apartment and Steve would pick us up and take us to his apartment in Crystal City. Johanna (another Georgia person who was assisting Emily in her coordination duties) had called and needed Chris and Steve to come to a meeting early Saturday evening to help out. Whether I was dehydrated and/or exhausted I had started to get a headache. So the boys tucked me in to nap with a big glass of water and went to the meeting.
The “Georgia Crew” had bonded over their 3 weeks of 24/7 campaigning and most of them had planned on being in DC for the inauguration. Thus a big Georgia Crew reunion was planned for that night at Tryst (one of those trendy coffee house by day/night club by night type of places). One more reason Chris let me nap.
Getting around the city by Metro is easy. Having been in NY 3 weeks prior, I marveled at the cleanliness of the subways and stations. We were in a part of town with a lot of bars and the streets were PACKED! We got to Tryst and quickly found a crowd of Georgia folk smoking outside. I was immediately embraced and taken into the fold. We wound our way through thick crowds to where the crew had staked out a corner. The night was enjoyable with the jubilant crowds as the electricity of the city was like nothing you could describe.
I slept well and we slept in. Steve made a coffee run the next morning so by the time I awoke there was coffee waiting. This would be the time to mention that Steve was a phenomenal host. He made us feel welcomed and provided such a nice escape from the millions of people roaming the streets of DC. Big props and thanks yous to Steve (who is single btw. Cute, sweet, and a lawyer. Just throwing that out there). We grabbed some lunch on our way to the official Inaugural Concert. This was broadcast on TV which we watched all over again once we got home. Being in a crowd of over half a million people was staggering. Watching back the footage and seeing the size of the crowd we were in was mind boggling. There we were, crowding around the Lincoln Memorial, squeezed around the sides of the reflecting pool, straight back packed to the Washington Monument.
I remember seeing footage of the March on Washington and seeing the archive footage of the crowds around the reflecting pool as Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech but to now be standing in this same area, in a crowd twice the size, hearing MLK’s grandson speak (though not nearly as eloquently) was an experience like no other. The slew of celebrities (some incredibly random- Ashley Judd?) and musicians filled the air but everyone was waiting for the big man, the man of the hour, to get up and speak to this crowd. One of the defining qualities of great leaders (from MLK to even Hitler) is their public speaking abilities. Obama can stand before a crowd of 500,000 people and silence us all. He speaks with such passion and conviction that it gives us all pause.
Monday, MLK Jr. Day, Chris and I spent the afternoon waiting in line to enter the Holocaust Museum. I had been to DC before and done *every*thing one would want to do there in the touristy sense except the Holocaust Museum. To be honest, at age 17, I wasn’t ready to face this side to my peoples’ history. Chris wanted to give up when he saw the line but I reminded him that the same line would greet us at any one of the Smithsonian museums as well and this is where we both wanted to go. We persevered and made it into the building. We started with the theatre and watched three 15 minute short films on the Holocaust and current genocide that the world tries to ignore. Tears rolled down my cheek and I was happy for the soft scarf I had worn that day. We eventually made our way to elevators to enter the main exhibit. The building is ginormous and it was staggering the artifacts that they had been able to collect.
We were rushed through as the museum closed at 5. I didn’t have nearly enough time to process what it was I was seeing. Maybe I still wasn’t ready. I think another visit later in life may be in order. What stood out to me was that this museum was not just about the annihilation of European Jews. There was a noted effort to bring to consciousness modern genocide and education on how atrocities could/can be prevented. It is a gift that this museum stands in Washington DC and it makes me feel my history is important to this country.
It was an important day. Thinking of the assassination of MLK and the genocide of my people may not have been the most feel-good portion of the weekend, but it was meaningful nonetheless. Chris and I wandered through the mall though it was getting dark. We took pictures in front of the Capitol building and wound our way past multiple news broadcasts.