Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: 1/18/09-1/19/09

Hello Elephants of the Blue Grass!

My name is Elizabeth Fryman, and I am from Lexington, KY. This weekend three of my college roommates and I are in DC for the Inauguration, thanks to Bridget Bush and Senator McConnell's office. We are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to witness this historic event, and I am very excited to be keeping everyone back home updated on the proceedings. I have sparse Internet access where we are staying, but I will try to post as often as possible about our DC adventures. Also, once I get back to school and have my camera cord, I'll be uploading some of my pictures from the DC tourist sights and the Inauguration.

We began our journey Saturday with an eight hour drive from Boston to where we are staying in Bethesda, Maryland. Unlike most schools, ours has this bizarre exam schedule with a reading period after Christmas and finals during the few weeks of January. Thankfully, I had my last final Saturday morning and my roommates have their last ones on this upcoming Thursday, leaving a perfect three day window for the Inauguration Festivities. We arrived in Bethesda around 1:30 am and quickly hopped into bed in anticipation of the day to come.

My alarm rang all too soon at 9 am, and I headed downstairs to dissect the Metro map with the friends of my parents with whom we are staying. After mastering the Red line, my roommates and I emerged from Union Station, maps and cameras in hand, to explore the world of Washington. Senator McConnell's office told us to arrive there at the Russell Senate Building sometime between 2 and 4 to pick up our tickets; however, being overly anxious about navigating the unknown city, we made it to the corner of Constitution and Delaware by 1:10 pm. This gave us ample opportunity to explore the Capital, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress buildings before gathering the tickets. These areas were fairly deserted probably due to a celebrity-filled concert, including Usher, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Shakira, Josh Groban, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp, going on at the Lincoln Memorial at 2 pm.

There was, however, a group of women carrying an Obama cut out and posing for pictures with it at each monument. Along the streets, especially around Union Station, were flocks of vendors with Obama shirts, buttons, wallets, tote bags, picture frames, hats, and anything else someone might possibly want to maybe spend their money on. The presidential paraphernalia seemed to be selling surprisingly well, as we saw many tourists in bedazzled Obama hats and buttons.

We managed to find an open door into Russell Senate Building at exactly 2 o'clock. The building itself is gorgeous. The hallways have marble floors, chandeliers, and cherry doors, with each senator's office represented with two plaques: one with the senator's name and state and one with the state's seal. Two majestic marble staircases led us up to the third floor, where we were able to peak into the Caucus room, the site of hearings on the sinking of the Titanic and Watergate. Senator McConnell's office is decorated with pictures of various Kentucky landscapes and photos of notable interactions between government and our fair state, such as former President Reagan with the Derby's Rose Blanket draped over his shoulders.

Along with the tickets that we present on Tuesday, we were given packets of commemorative engraved invitations, a program for the event, and pictures of Obama and Biden. Our tickets are in the West standing area of the Purple section. I think these will be fantastic. From what I can tell on the map, we are right in the center of the ticketed seating and should have a great view of the ceremony. My only concern at this point is getting into the city on Tuesday. We may very well be leaving Bethesda at 5 am to beat all the crowds on the Metro into the city. But that's a story for Tuesday.

We had planned on attending the Lincoln Memorial concert right after getting the tickets but got distracted by the offices in the Russell Building. Once I had taken a picture next to the Kentucky seal outside Senator McConnell's office, my roommates insisted on finding the seals of their states: Massachusetts, Ohio, and Georgia. As we tried to find those offices, we came across the states of our friends from school and had to take pictures of those. Then we found the offices of John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Biden, the former offices of JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Harding. It was especially cool to get a picture with the plaques of Clinton and Biden, considering they must be coming down relatively soon. Unfortunately, they had already replaced Obama with Burris.

Eventually, we made our way out of the building and headed toward the Lincoln Memorial. We walked along Constitution and Pennsylvania Ave past the National Gallery of Art, the Newseum, the Department of Justice, and a statue in honor of General Meade, who led the Union troops in Gettysburg. We made a pit stop at Ollie's Trolley to refuel before the concert with some fantastic burgers and fries. As we started walking toward the Washington Monument, mobs of people and cars filled the streets, signaling the end of the show. A little bit bummed, yet exhausted from a busy day of walking, we decided to head back to Bethesda for the night.

The Metro was absolutely insane. The first train that came was nearly empty for the first few cars, but they became progressively more full until the train finally came to a stop and the doors opened. People were literally stuffed in like sardines, but the crowds on the platform insisted on pushing their way in anyway. Considering there were an estimated 800,000 people at the concert and the newspapers are expecting around 5,000,000 for the actually Inauguration, the Metro on Tuesday should be even more ridiculous.

Today, we are planning a trip to Georgetown for shopping and lunch, then back into the city to hit up the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and perhaps the Air and Space Museum. I don't expect anything post-worthy to be going down, but if it does, I'll update. If not, check back in for a play-by-play of the big day on Tuesday night!


Bridget M. Bush said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, for giving us a real sense of what it's like to be in D.C. to watch history be made. Stay safe and warm!

linn.wyatt said...

elizabeth- enjoyed reading about your first day. it's fabulous to have a correspondent available to give us play-by-play details! keep those mittens on. L.