For weeks, Washington officials have warned residents that roads and bridges into the city would be closed and Metro trains and buses would be packed. They said those wanting to travel into the city to see Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States should be prepared for gridlock, long security lines and a lot of hassle.
But we only live about seven miles from the Capitol, giving us no excuse not to find SOME way to get downtown.
Our preferred mode of transportation? Running, of course.
We met our group from Pacers, which usually gathers at 7 p.m. for a Tuesday night run, at 10 a.m. in Silver Spring for the 7.1-run to the Capitol. Inaugural excitement was palpable before our group of ten even left Silver Spring. Throngs of people wearing Obama buttons, hats and T-shirts filed into the Silver Spring Metro station. American flags fluttered from front porches. On Georgia Avenue, we saw a dude dressed like Uncle Sam.
The fun continued after we crossed the Maryland-D.C. line on 16th Street. Inaugural banners hung from homes and businesses (including the puzzling “Labradoodles for Obama.” Really?). We started to see others walking and biking into the city, and we exchanged waves. We ran up and down some rolling hills on 16th Street, yapping as usual about work, the weather and similarly momentous topics.
Suddenly, it seemed, we were at K Street, and the real fun began. Streets were closed to all vehicles but buses and taxis. Armed guards in camouflage uniforms guarded street corners, and armed military vehicles rolled by from time to time. Streetside vendors hawked all manner of Obama souveniers, from hats to framed photos.
Thousands of people flooded toward the Capitol, where security lines were exactly as long as predicted. We saw mothers pushing babies in carriages covered in fleece blankets (Washington saw a high of 30 degrees today). We saw members of a local church offering freezing visitors free hot coffee, and a spot indoors to warm up and watch the ceremonies. We saw a high-school marching band in bright blue jogging suits carrying signs that said “HOPE FOR PEACE.”
Our goal in running to the Capitol wasn’t to see the speech firsthand, or even to get close to it. With 1 to 3 million people expected to crowd the Mall, we had no expectation of being front-and-center. We were like tailgaters without tickets to the game, who set up shop outside a college football stadium to soak in the cheers, the team colors and the festive atmosphere. We wanted to be part of the community of runners trekking downtown, of Washington residents celebrating their city, of Americans celebrating their new president — and their country.
Our running group broke up when we got to the security checkpoints near the White House. Some stayed to try to get closer, while Steve and I headed home on the Metro to watch the ceremonies on TV back home. As the train zoomed by, we saw familiar buildings adorned with new graffiti — images of the new president’s face.
How did you celebrate the inauguration? Let me know by posting a comment below.