( To my readers: Brad has a bunch of photos to share. If you click on continue reading you can see more. I am going to not use as many photos on the front page to work on how long it takes to load this page for some users)
Here is Brad Torti's entry from today:
Today is a good day.
4:00 - Our friend Ashley wakes up, too excited to sleep.
4:45 - Our cousin David wakes up because "this is the most important inauguration ever, next to George Washington's."
5:00 - Jennie and Brad wake up, and knowing that I must walk the dogs, I ask to sleep in for five more minutes. This is not to say I am not excited, just very cold and apathetic to the dogs' needs.
6:15 - We leave my cousin's house in Georgetown and head over to the Metro in Rosslyn, VA.
6:25 - Parking isn't much of a problem, though it is confusing because of the many road closures on the VA side of DC. We get on the Metro. It's busy.
7:00 - We get off the Metro...35 minutes later on what would normally be a 5 minute ride.
8:00 - We arrive at the corner of 14th and Constitution... 2 blocks from where we stepped off the Metro. A thronging mass of people restricts movement across the street as well as one inch in any direction. We befriend the people near us. We're surprised to see no one has much to complain about as we stand waiting for direction for the next ½ hour with no explanation as to why we are not moving. It is extremely easy to find a fast friend when you are nestled under their armpit in 20 degree pre-dawn weather.
8:27 - We find a spot east of 12th St on the Mall. The 8 blocks in front of us where non-ticketed attendees are permitted to stand is already packed with people 3 ½ hours before the event. We are excited to be located in front of a Jumbotron. We jump around, singing "Lean On Me," with a few of our millions of like-minded friends replayed from the Inaugural Concert on said Jumbotron, just so happy to have made it.
8:30-10:03 - We hang out with new friends from Virginia, Florida, and sections of the Northeast, discussing the extent to which each was involved with Obama's campaign and sharing ground space that we've spoken for. Suddenly the people standing next to us feel like distant extended family. All we need is one commonality to believe we are connected. In between the end of the concert reply and beginning of inaugural festivities, the screen projects images of us, the crowd. We are humbled by our mass. Not having realized that while we reflected on the past couple years, the millions that were predicted to attend were herding in. The San Francisco Boys and Girls Choirs perform to open the Inauguration celebration. As dignitaries and elected officials start filing in after that, and while we stop keeping track of time, there are some very memorable entrances. Among them, cheers from the crowd for Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, the Clintons, Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama. The crowd doesn't seem sure about how to react to Rick Warren, but when both Bush families arrive, people either ignore them or boo loudly.
12:00 - The swearing in of Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States, officially begins. Obama seems nervous and stumbles over the first part of the swearing-in, and in the crowd, people let out a smile or giggle. Michelle Obama cries as she holds Lincoln's Bible. Honestly, the moment doesn't seem perfect but it's a rare window into the humanity of a man that so many have built up to be a demi-god. But it is the small things that don't go according to plan that make things memorable. Obama recovers his composure and delivers his Inaugural Address without a hitch, bringing some in the crowd to tears, some to cheers, but all smiling wildly as history unfolds in front of them.
After the address, many in the crowd start leaving, but without specific instructions as to where to go, or which Metro stations are closed, a slow quiet chaos ensues. There are no fights, there are no riots, and there are few swear words. In fact, for all the confusion, for all the misdirection, rumors, and porta-potty prophets (some people took advantage of the abundance of Andy Gumps to "get a perspective" but they never really knew what was going on), the only complaining is in mild jest, and the angriest shouts were simply inquiries about the status of the trains in the Metro: "Is the f*****g Metro running or not?" This is okay, because most of us are wondering the same thing and a slight hush falls over the crowd as we wait to hear if a uniformed someone responds with an answer.
After we resign ourselves to the fact that we are not going to leave the same way we came, things go smoothly. In fact, the obstacles that we overcame that morning we would later recall as a breeze compared to the near aimless wandering that was unfolding before us. First, we head to 12th Street to get on Constitution Ave to pick up the Metro to Rosslyn at Federal Triangle. Unfortunately, but predictably, Constitution Ave is closed for the parade. We retreat to the last known open crossing, 14th St and Constitution, to find it in the same state. After speaking with an Army soldier, we come to realize that the fastest way out is across the National Mall and a long walk to Farragut West. His exact advice, and the only advice we get is simply "Follow the crowd." Farragut West is not ridiculously far, but at what we determine is "Inauguration Shuffle" speed, it takes us 60 minutes to walk less than a mile. We are herded over barricades, across streets, over trampled vines, between porta-potties, and through planters in what we later realize is a giant figure 8. The mass moves blessedly free of injury thanks in large part to dozens of people calling out "Curb!!" over curbs and extending a hand during barricade straddling. Just west of the Washington Monument, we are no longer corralled by the military. Our 4 person group is spit out of the thronging mass one by one. We finally wander into the vast trampled pasture of the National Mall and, slack-jawed and wobbling, migrate through what might have been - in another time and place - a refugee camp. Morale is high, but we are beginning to realize that our bodies are freezing cold. At the far end of the Mall, we cross over a chain link fence which was likely not designed to be walked upon. Now face to face with the Inaugural Parade, the majority of our challenges are closed roads and oncoming traffic. One word: Frogger.
Once we get to Farragut West, we find that it is impassible. Plan B is out. Plan C is a walk to Foggy Bottom in Georgetown, but from about a quarter mile away, we realize that it is just as packed, and there's no guarantee that it works. Plan Z, our "last resort under all circumstances," is to walk all the way back to Rosslyn, VA. That's right, an interstate stroll. The tax rate where we stop to buy coffee in Georgetown is different than the rate we buy groceries at. And we're off.
Please find attached a MapMyRun screen capture of the 5.25 mile route we took to and from the Inauguration. On foot.
And so it is that, 4 hours after making the decision to leave the Inauguration, and now very cold and very tired, we finally arrive back at the house in Georgetown, still numb from the bitter winter chill, the massive swarms of people, and the immensity of what we just experienced, to sit around the fireplace, hot cocoa in hand, shoes off, and heads back while a hot meal cooks in the kitchen and a new president sits in the Oval Office.
Today is a very good day.