By Jessica Jordan
Today is the day that will go down in history.
And yes, I was there with an amazingly good seat. Flanked by some very kind Obama campaign leaders and some White House insiders whose smart comments kept me highly entertained, I had a fabulous time at the ceremony, which turned out to be all that I had hoped.
But the adventure before taking my seat on Capitol Hill is a less graceful one entirely.
After filing my Tuesday stories via internet in some place called Crystal City, I made a mad dash through metro stations trying to get back into D.C. before the metro trains came to a screeching halt at 2 a.m.
Every once and a while, my years of ballet get an opportunity to kick in. In the wee hours of this historic day, such an opportunity presented itself.
Upon realizing I was on the wrong side of the metro train, the last one pulling out of the station for the night, I bounded up a flight of stairs with 40 pounds of equipment weighing me down, crossed the bridge and then faced an American Gladiator-esque sort of challenge: the up escalator was the only thing standing between me and the open metro doors below, where the voice of God kept telling me were going to slam shut any minute.
Thoughts of shivering alone without cell phone service in the metro all night kicked my spider monkey stealth into high gear, and I twinkle toes-ed it down the whole escalator and piled onto the metro just in time to sit on it for about 20 minutes. After flying onto the train like Kosmo wearing jeans and tennis shoes, I was greeted by well-composed gentlefolk whose tuxes and gowns betrayed their nights' destinations.
But thet were pretty cool about it. One lady gave me props for not busting my arse and another said "Been there, sweetheart." Some might have been embarrassed, but I could only think of how I had no time to run back to Arlington, where my long camera lense, toothbrush, contact juice, clean clothes and phone charger awaited, before I hunkered down in our D.C. cheating camp that would get us to the Capitol building faster later this morning.
My friends, who were all at bars in downtown D.C. at the hour, told me I better learn to live without those items unless I wanted to trek back to Arlington at 4 a.m. when the metro re-opened. Never the early riser, I opted for no way.
*pause: live interjection- Obama and Biden's motorcade just passed my friend's D.C. apartment just now, a mess of sirens, secret service cars and black limos. Surely they're destined for their ninth inaugural ball at this hour.*
Anyway, I elected to be the party pooper and just crash in our friend's downtown D.C. apartment while they all raged into the wee hours of the morn. Without my tools for sleepytime, I dug into the cabinet belonging to the frat boy I had never met and dug out two shot glasses. I took my contacts out and placed one in each glass and hid them behind the couch before the party pros, who could have knocked them over or consumed them, returned.
The warm blanket of sleep never came that night. Just as soon as everyone was settled in beds, chairs and on the floor (I was on the couch and faked being asleep when they got home) for our little nap, the 5:30 a.m. alarm exploded to the tune of Soulja Boy.
And then we were off. Nothing could stop any of us from seeing Barack Obama sworn into office. Even Mr. Fratboy was at Starbucks before sun up.
With my press pass from the U.S. Senate Inaugural Committee in hand, I broke away from the gangly pack and struck off for the press entrance to Capitol Hill.
Frightened by the massive crowds clogging the metro buses, one two-minute train ride on which I was pressed against the doors convinced me that hey, I'm young, I'll just hoof it. And I did, along with thousands of others.
On my 30 block jaunt to the capitol I encountered some interesting characters. Not the least of which was Scarlet Johanssen, who happens to be like one of my favorite actresses ever. Unintimidated by famous people unless they wield guitars, I struck up a conversation with her as we made our way to the inauguration. Turns out we're both 24 and Scorpios.
Deciding not to trouble her for a photo, I wished her much joy on the day that she would see her contributions to the Obama campaign come to fruition, and I was on my way.
It seemed like everyone in America was trying to get to the Capitol. They were coming from every nook, cranny and side street you saw and didn't see. They were of all colors and all ages and were very patient and said, "Excuse me" and "Sorry" when they bumped into you.
Children made the trek, too, most without complaining about the bitter cold or endless walk.
People covered the blocks not at at a leisurely pace, but with a sense of direction. Scores of black people, some young and some very old, marched toward the mall with a notable pep in their step. Countless white people marched with them.
And we were all marching together to see President-elect Barack Obama sworn into office. A sense of immediacy buzzed in the city as the 11:30 a.m. ceremony drew near.
Finally, after much pomp and circumstance, a renewed nation got a glimpse of its new president Barack Hussein Obama. With only a slight glitch in the swearing-in oath, our new leader promised to serve our country to the best of his abilities "So help me God."
Kisses, hugs, laughter, tears and cheers ensued.
"I am humbled by the challenges ahead," our first African-American president began.
I expected the usual Barack change/hope speech, but sat only 200 feet from him as he delivered much more. I'd never seen him speak live before, and he was absolutely captivating. We just might be on to something good here, I thought.
Much more quickly than it began, the inauguration ended. And former President George W. Bush packed up his wife and boarded the helicopter. After hearing the crowd sing the old tune "Na na na na, hey, hey, hey.... goodbye" earlier in the ceremony when Bush was mentioned, it was no real surprise that the whole mall burst into cheers of joy as Bush's helicopter flew him over the national mall in the opposite direction of the U.S. Capitol. To say they zealously waved him off is an understatement.
I knew America was ready for change, but I just didn't know how ready until today.
Many of my friends stopped facebooking long enough to make this dream a reality. Some of them made new friends on the campaign trail, a few of them even fell in love. One is head over heels for a man of a different race she met on the trail.
It's amazing, truly amazing, that one man, Barack Obama, got this nation united and on its feet today. The nearly two million person turnout today proved that Americans do care, and they care enough to get off the couch and do something about it. We are good people. It seems Barack's message of hope and change was the kindling needed to ignite the United States' democratic beacon that had all but flickered out.