Sunday, January 25, 2009
I woke up at 3AM, even though my alarm clock was set to go off an hour later. It was so early the cats didn’t even join me, so I quietly read while waiting for “Good Morning America’s” (GMA) inaugural coverage to start at 4AM.
The night Obama won the election, I promised myself I would go to Washington D.C. to attend the inauguration. But life intervened and so there I was, sitting at home, waiting for the festivities to begin.
People were already packed into the National Mall by the time GMA began. I scoured the crowds for friends I knew were there. It was cold, but looked to be a clear day. I decided that as thrilling as it would have been to actually be there, it was best to watch from my comfy couch.
Hungry, I went into the kitchen to rustle-up some breakfast. I had hoped to wake Tim to the smell of baking banana bread, but he heard the beep of the oven’s timer and quickly stumbled out of bed to see what was cooking.
“It’s 5AM! What are you doing?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“I’m baking a bread to eat while I watch the inauguration,” I answered matter-of-factly.
We started hearing reports that people were already congregating at L.A. Live, where Tim now works, to watch the ceremony on big-screen TVs. Worried that all the good parking spaces would be gone, Tim took off as soon as the bread got out of the oven.
Though I enjoyed the TV interviews with the Obamas’ friends, etc., I was getting antsy to see the First Family. What was Michelle (my new favorite “Most Beautiful Woman in the World!”) going to wear? How cute were Malia and Sasha going to look? (They were, of course, darling!).
Tim called to say that hundreds of people were jammed into the L.A. Live plaza. He could see the proceedings from his office window.
The cameras finally switched over to Blair House, where Obama family members were piling into cars to head over to a nearby church. The First Couple emerged—I loved Michelle’s lemongrass-colored ensemble!—and the race was on. After church they went to the White House to “have coffee” with the Bushes. Lots of photo ops. But the TV commentators were most abuzz over the precedent-setting gift Michelle gave to Laura: a journal and pen set so she could begin writing her memoirs.
After a short while, the vice presidential contingent exited the White House—the wives and then the husbands—and then the First Ladies appeared. The president and the president-elect were the last to enter their limousine. While the procession made its way to the Capitol, Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams speculated about what Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama were talking about, interjecting horror stories about previous presidential rivals who rode in silence because they hated each other. Everyone agreed that Bush and Obama were probably chatting quite amicably.
Meanwhile, the podium where the swearing-in ceremony was about to take place was starting to fill-up with Congressmembers and other dignitaries. Michelle arrived carrying Lincoln’s bible. Former vice presidents and their wives were introduced and took their seats, followed by former presidents and their wives. Everyone screamed and applauded for the Clintons, who looked as confident as ever.
George W. Bush then made his entrance to lukewarm applause. Apparently people on the Mall were waving and singing “Na-na-na, Na-na-na, Hey, Hey, Good-bye!” to the out-going president, but the TV microphones didn’t pick it up.
Then it was Barack Obama’s turn as he walked the long hallway to the outdoor stage. He could see the almost two million people crowded onto the National Mall and must have realized what was about to happen, because just for a moment the man, whom everyone calls Mr. Cool, seemed filled with emotion. I could only imagine what was going through his mind.
The crowd went wild as cameras showed people of all ages and colors sobbing and waving. California senator Dianne Feinstein guided the proceedings. Aretha Franklin sang “America the Beautiful” and Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma played a sobering but lovely piece arranged by John Williams. Then it was time for the swearing in. Chief justice Roberts and Obama both flubbed their lines—a bad omen, I thought, until Barack launched into his speech and took total command of the situation. He admonished the country to take responsibility for its actions and promised that we would once again become a world leader. If I were George Bush, I would have been ashamed to be so poignantly reminded of my failure.
When it was all over, I started my work day and forgot about watching the inaugural parade like I was going to do. By dinnertime, I was exhausted. I did stay awake long enough to watch the televised “Neighborhood Ball,” however, and cried when Barack and Michelle, looking like happy newlyweds, danced to Beyoncé’s version of “At Last.”
A new day had dawned.