Saturday, January 24, 2009

Post from Gregory

My trip in Washington D.C. was incredible. When we arrived there it was freezing. I never been in weather under 35 degrees, but over here it was 17 degrees and what was making it worse was the very cold winds. I walked around with my family to see all these buildings that I only dreamed of seeing never thought I would actually see it in person. But I did!!! I saw the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Arlington National Cemetery, The White House, Washington Monument and all these other famous attractions that most people never get to see in person. It was so amazing that I got to see where The United States of America is run. One of the places that hit me the most was when I visited the Lincoln Memorial. Just thinking about where I was stepping is where Martin Luther King Jr. made his most famous speech. There were so many people I saw, the most I ever seen in one place. I mean yes it was really crowded but I was happy to see all sorts of people came here to watch and support President Obama taking the oath of office. Watching the Inauguration with all ages, ethnicities, cultures, religion and race was a good experience because you got to see a lot support that Obama received from all over the country all the way from Alaska to New York. I even met a couple of people from out of the country that came from Brazil and England to watch the historical event. I am very proud to be one of the millions of people to watch this event. It’s a story that I can tell my kids and it’s a part of history. I wish the best of luck to the President Obama and I may be under age for now but I still support him.

Post from Justin

Overall the trip to D.C. was spectacular. The cites were amazing unlike another I've ever seen. There were huge buildings and swelling crowds. The weather was very far off from the weather we are used to in California. It was about 17 Degrees and the winds were very choppy, it felt like bees stinging your face at times. I have never been in these types of extreme temperatures before. It was all worth it though, being in Washington D.C. to witness history made me forget all about the weather, the enormous masses of people, and the cramped metro trains. Watching the Inauguration and actually being their sharing this experience with millions of other people from all ages, ethnicities, cultures, religion and race was an outstanding experience. At that moment it finally dawned on me that we were actually there and all of the hard work my aunt (and others) had done finally paid off, with the victory of Obama and the high hopes of change in the United States to come.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Well what a journey. It has been amazing to be a part of this campaign as a volunteer and then to be a part of this celebration and history. It has been, though quite an adventure! After finagling being let back into our hotel room at 1:15 am this morning, we still had no electricity – and it was still not on when we got up at 4 am. So we had to shower and get ready in the dark with no hot water. But that would not deter us or dampen our spirits. We headed to the Metro and was able to easily get on. However, someone broke a train door so we had to deboard the train and after that all trains were packed and we could not get on. We had to get on going the reverse direction to get on at the start. After that what should have taken 40 minutes took 2 hours. If you have ever watched any of the national lampoon movies like European Vacation you can guess that this journey was to have many detours instore. Our trip would be an inauguration version of this classic…Still though, we were excited to get the Capitol! My mom and I headed to the line for the Blue gate we were designated to enter and the rest of the gang headed to the mall. You may have heard on the news and blogs that thousands of people with tickets did not get into. We were among those thousands. We cannot figure out exactly why, there were many reasons depending on which officer you talked with and what line you were in. The bottom line though, is that although those of us attending were prepared to wait hours and expected mass crowds, the officials were less prepared. They could not get holders of all of the tickets that they issued through security and into the proper area. Although we were late from the Metro, we were still within the timeline provided with our tickets. We were to enter the blue gate, but made little progress in 2 ½ hours in about 20 degree temperatures (as Justin says “cold that hurts your face”. There was no one providing information, until finally at about 10:45 a military guard told us that security screening would shut down at 11 and we were still more than an hour wait from the screening. By this point the program had already begun with music and from we were standing, you could here nothing, see nothing. I tried to not completely freak out while we figured out what to do. I really could not believe that we had come all this way and would miss it completely. We decided to high tail it to the national mall (keep in mind my mom has a sprained knee and a cane!). As we round a corner several blocks away there were more blue gate lines and they were in total disarray. Just as thousands waited in line, thousands more were heading our same direction. Eventually we made it to the mall area, but of course the entrances were closed. Eventually 20 or so blocks later we made it to an open entrance where we could hear the inauguration, although we could not see it on the screens. We made it just in time to hear Biden get sworn in so we were able to hear Obama’s swearing in and his address. This whole process was so frustrating, especially when our original plan was to go to the mall but were so happy to have been offered an opportunity to view this up close (not to mention that we stood for hours yesterday in the cold just to pick up the tickets). Luckily, Justin, Gregory, Shawnine and Monique were able to get a spot behind the Washington Monument (just about where we were for the Inaugural concert) and were able to view the entire ceremony.
Despite the disappointment of the tickets, this was still an incredible experience. My mom and I both were overcome with emotion when Obama took his oath of office. My mom says that she never remembers seeing this type of excitement, hope, and involvement on a national or international level – the closest experience she can point to is the election of Kennedy. There is something that you can’t quite put into words about being here with all of these other people from around the country and the world celebrating Obama’s presidency, the principles he represents and America. I talked with people everywhere we went and people came from near, far, and even further. I am happy to have been here for the moment that our country gained President Obama as our commander in chief. Something that struck me about the inauguration and the events surrounding it is the calmness the seemed to surround everyone – even in the midst of the ticket debacle and the swarms of millions. It was clear that everyone was here to be a part of this moment and of the process. I heard so many people talking about how they were involved in the Obama campaign, and through that in their community, and so many who participated in community events, voter registration, and usually mentioned some particular issue they are particularly concerned with. President Obama will of course now need to produce policies and provide strong leadership through these difficulty times, but so much of what he has done is to give our government and political process to the people – where it belongs.

Before packing up my things to hit the road tomorrow, we are watching the balls and replays of President Obama’s speech. On a slightly less important issue, I love Michelle Obama’s ball gown. Lastly, I think it is perfect that the girls are spending their first night in their new home having a sleepover with familiar friends.

Below is a link to a short piece of the ticket debacle. I will post video and pictures by the end of the weekend. Hoped to have them today but computer is taking a long time downloading.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I forgot to mention that I did manage to grab our inauguration tickets!

The opening

We arrived and came straight to the concert. It is wall to wall from lincoln memorial to the washington monument! This is amazing.


The fire next door apparently got worse. The hotel is unfortunately not prepared for an emergency. The stairwell next to us was locked! Fortuately the others were open. The videos and pics I was starting to post will obviously not be posted tonight! Fortuately we are all safe and sound.
We’ve determined that while sleep would be great, it’s not really an option! We are just getting back to the hotel, it’s 11 pm and we will be getting up at 4 am to be at the capitol by 6:30. Today we had to pick up the inauguration tickets from Stark’s office. We got off the Metro train and saw nothing but thousands of people wrapped around the building for same purpose! The line was about a 3.5 hour line to get through the security and into the building. It was a bit crazy. My mom waited in line while the rest of us went and checked out the Library of Congress, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. All of the buildings are closed, so we only made it to the outside, but it was still great. The Supreme Court never ceases to amaze me, it is so overwhelming. We spent about an hour walking around, and went back only to find my mom in almost the same place. We all sort of the just wondered about to keep ourselves warm and occupied as time went by. I think our cheeks were starting to freeze in place. The sun disappeared behind clouds and the temperature dropped a few more degrees as we waited, and waited. At first we were excited seeing people walking out of the building with their golden ticket, but than we got envious and by hour two were just plain bitter! J Finally, after about 2 ½ hours, a with another to go before making it in for our golden ticket, on a tip from a woman who had been in line with us, mom called upstairs and a staffer happily agreed to being the tickets right down to us!!!! While we wish we had figured to do this first, we were nevertheless quite happy to be on our way. You can check out Justin and Gregory’s reporting on the scene!
We headed to Arlington Cemetery to see the changing of the guards. Among the burial sites we saw were the Kennedys, Thurgood Marshall, a section dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers, and a memorial to the Challenger space shuttle. It’s really quite hard to describe the feelings, but we all recommend that this is a place to experience.

We headed to the National Mall afterward to check on the scene and set-up for tomorrow. There were thousands of people milling about. As my mom described it “the spirit of the city is so joyous and infectious…it just carries you”. Everywhere we go, people are so ready to witness the swearing in of Obama each for our own reasons. I was sitting next to an older woman on the Metro who was smiling to herself. She got to talking and saying how she just had to find a way here, she is so happy to be able to witness this.

Well, we were hoping to get showered and in bed soon, but we just discovered (well Justin did) that the water has been shut off because there is a fire at a nearby restaurant. I have a feeling we may be up earlier than 4 to get ourselves together. It has been almost impossible to get calls and text messages near the capitol and even tonight we are having internet problems, but we hope to be able to post soon after Obama becomes our President.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Opening Ceremony

Arrived in DC early today. There are six of, mom, nephews Justin and Gregory, and cousins Shawnine and Monique. I am so thrilled to be here, despite the freezing temperatures (thanks Rory for the socks!). We drove down from New Jersey after visiting overnight with family and we kept driving over frozen lakes and ponds! It was 11 degrees last night, but was 30 here this afternoon. We checked into the hotel and immediately headed to the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration concert. Unfortunately, we didn't make it there until about 2 pm, just as they closed the seating area in the Lincoln Memorial area. However, they had big screens and speakers on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument and we found a perfect space to see and hear the concert. I cannot even imagine what the crowds will be like Monday and especially Tuesday because it was packed, almost shoulder to shoulder in many spots. It was a sea of people from the Lincoln Memorial to the Monument. I posted some pictures of the crowd - there were even people in the trees!. The concert itself was amazing, hopefully you had a chance to watch it - I think it was shown on HBO. The many speakers evoked the Lincolnesque feel surrounding the inauguration, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., and Obama's own messages of hope, patriotism and change. Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Tiger Woods and Forrest Whitaker were some of my favorite speakers. The music was awesome...all American classics! Stevie Wonder, U2,, John Legend. Garth Brooks got the crowd going with American Pie and Shout. Obama spoke briefly - hopefully the video attachment comes through. Obama's speech followed by Beyonce's signing of America the Beautiful brought many in the crowd to tears.

We roamed around a bit after the concert taking in a few sites. The monuments are beautiful at night. I think Justin, Gregory, and Monique are quite impressed with the sites, especially the White House. This was a great start to our inauguration activities. Would like to post more today, but feel like I have been up for 2 days! Hope to post more plus pictures tomorrow. I think Justin and Gregory will add to the post tomorrow too.

Oh, and in case you are wondering why my mom has a cane in the pictures, she managed to sprain her knee a week ago. On the flip side, she found one that folds right open to a chair (Linda J - thanks for that suggestion).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Got tickets into the ceremony!

My mom received 2 tickets from Congressman Pete Stark's office so she and I will make to the capitol for the ceremony. I was thrilled just to be there on the mall with the big screens but this is just amazing!
Counting down the days until the Inauguration of Barack Obama as our President! My plan is to post and share photos and hopefully some video clips as well. I hope that you will add your comments, thoughts, and feelings of this experience as well.