On January 20th, I braved the cold at 6:45 am to go see the 56th Presidential Inauguration. Being the PR/Comms guy I am, I experienced several communication hiccups along the way and found myself wanting someone to tell me something good.
The weekend had already been great with a viewing of Notorious, witnessing people trying to write cheques to get into parties, impromtu 430am trips to Amsterdam Falafel and observing all the Obama wear, but I couldn’t avoid going out to see the day’s events myself.
After a quick stop at Starbucks (first time in my life I was glad GW has 4 on campus), we joined the sea of people walking down 18th street to the mall. Things were all clear til we cleared the Washington Monument. After seeing all the people already there (prob 250,000 at that point), we decided it would be best to head for the parade route. That’s when I got the inspiration to write this post.
We followed the instructions posted online and walked towards 12th St to enter the parade route. About 2 blocks away, we were caught in a major holdup. Hundreds of people were trying to enter the mall and left only a small opening along the gate for the equally large of people trying to get to the security gate for the parade.
Police officers around: Check yes. Effective police officers: Check no. They watched as the crowd tried to negotiate for themselves, and when things got to a standstill, they tried to turn everyone away claiming the entrance was now closed….only to reopen it 2 minutes later.
When people inquired about where else they could enter, the officers shook there head and said “honestly, I don’t know”. Really? You really don’t know? Disappointing. Clearly, the staff communication brief wasn’t effective or some officers missed it altogether.
Observing the situation, we went back, squeezed through the crowds and made our way along a chain link fence to the security gate at 12th street. Okay, lots of people here too (maybe 200), but we’ll be okay. It’s 8:30am.
Fast forward to 9:35am. We moved about 14.27 inches. At about 9:40, someone came to rescue us. Someone came to tell us something good. That someone was an Inaugural volunteer. They told us to go to 10th because it was much better. Not knowing if this was yet another run around, we anxiously checked it out, made it through security in 10 mins and got a great spot next to the NewsChannel4 booth. Hotness!
Actually… coldness because we stood there until about 5pm, but it all was worth it when we the parade started and Barack and Michelle got out and walked right past us waving happily. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Freezing for hours, seeing the prez and first lady and jamming to tunes like this one by Chaka Khan and Rufus:
Tell Me Something Good