Viewing history makes cold and crowds bearable

When President Barack Obama spoke, I was wrapped up in a stranger’s NASA-inspired foil blanket. 

When President Obama was sworn in, new friends who surrounded me were just as cold, tired and thrilled for this moment.  

I met Doris Washington on the first train into Washington Center from the Stadium-Armory train station. 

The Washingtonian and Howard University graduate was the only one in her immediate family who made the trek to the Mall to view the historic inaugural of the nation’s first African-American president.     

“I think it’s wonderful,” Washington said.  “This is a monumental experience and I didn’tthink I would live to see the day.”

Washington has lived in the nation’s capital for over 50 years and has seen presidents come and go from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, however this was the first time she attended a presidential inauguration.

When I got to Federal Center station, about three blocks from Independence Avenue, I walked with Washington until she found some of her colleagues.

Around 9:25 a.m., the only open entrance to the mall was at 14th street.  Though the bottleneck entrance forced us to squeeze together more closely than you would stand with family, it was tolerable.

The anticipation of getting onto the Mall kept everyone’s spirit light.

Still, the slight pushing from the people around me only somewhat irked me.  However, traveling alone had its benefits.  This Rattler slithered, side stepped and skipped through the crowd without worrying about leaving behind a slower companion.

On 14th Street, I had a good view of the big screen. 

I started four people back from the fence and opted not to take a front row spot at the end of the celebration because the fence provided no barrier to the fierce wind. 

The wind made the 24-degree weather at 10:30 a.m. feel like 13 degrees.

“This is not worth it,” I thought, after I lost the feeling in my numb fingers and toes.  When the U.S. Marine Corps Band performed “Washington’s March,” “Jefferson’s March” and “Lincoln’s March,” again I thought, “This is not worth it.”

After the secret service caravan pulled up to the Capitol, after the parade of senators, representatives, White House staff, celebrities, past presidents, the introduction of Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, and vice president Joe Biden’s swearing, I finally felt the trip was worth it. 

There was a burst of energy in the people around me whenever President Obama appeared on screen.

“I stood by the Lincoln Memorial,” said Ashley Withrow, 21, from Palm City. “I could see perfectly well and hear.”

While it was cold and crowded, many enjoyed Obama’s speech and walked away from the Mall inspired and reinvigorated.

“His election and nomination was so critical in so many facets,” said Terrance Sobel, 39, of California. “As a young person, it’s incumbent upon us to take over this country and we should follow his lead.”

Caryn Wilson was one of several students that provided coverage in Washington, D.C. for The Famuan. She is  a sophomore newspaper journalism student from Charlotte, N.C. Wilson can be reached at