I think disease and pestilence aside I have been trying to avoid doing this because I really don’t think I can adequately describe ‘The Day’ itself, and besides, there are some fabulous accounts of it out there in newspapers and online.
The Boat Poeple got up at about 7 after the cathunk cathunk cacophony. M managed to look fabulous and dress warmly. I did not, I just did the dress warmly bit, I achieved this by wearing every item of clothing I took with me at the same time.
Coffees were fixed, but not too much, those of us in the shall we say ‘over-40s ‘ club didn’t want to take chances with the porta potties.
We headed out, it was grey and overcast and REALLY cold.
Someone who actually knows where we were should feel free to chime in and say so, but we went along some roads, heading to a subway station at the Washington Monument end of the proceedings.
That’s all I know.
Well! The streets were already thronging with people, a lot of people in floor length fur coats and fab hats, who had really made an effort for this day, this day no one thought would ever come.
Some folk were chanting OBAMA, others calling out ‘ Yes we Did’.
Everyone was smiling and striding forth very purposefully.
There were official volunteers lining the streets and some of them were calling out ‘ Good Morning Folks’ and people were answering, it was just SO exciting. On reflection I feel a little worried that strangers saying ‘Good Morning’ and people answering could cause such excitement, it says something very sad about either the state of the world or the state of my life.
The volunteers were trying to direct people into certain streets, I heard later that they alternated which streets you could go down trying to minimise the congestion. Well one fabulous volunteer, decked out in the badges and the hat, said ” Good Morning Folks and welcome to the first day of a brand new America, turn left here please.”
I loved it.
The five find-outers and I followed along with the throng, we weren’t really speaking we were just oggling people,
blown away by the cameraderie. Just thousands of people feeling the same thing at the same time for the same reason…..
People were standing all around the subway exit and we found a spot where we could see the people coming off the escalators. people were crowded around the top and they would spot their group and a cheer would go up and everyone would join in, even the police who were trying to keep people from getting too close to the top and failing dismally.
When the rest of our merry band came out we were all hugging and kissing and I decided there and then to implement a hug and kiss programme to Japan the minute I got back.
Paul is my Shepherd, kept us together and we tried several count offs then headed into the seething mass.
When we were crossing roads we couldn’t even see the ground in front of us, and the people in front warned the people behind about kurbs and barriers etc.
So all you could here was
” Thanks, sidewalk’
Eventually we found our spot where we were near a speaker and could see a screen. we had all agreed that if we had to choose we would rather hear than see, but we got both.
There was a fence around the speaker area and we were glad to get at the front of it, until three hours later when we had almost frozen to death we realised we had zero buffer against the frigid wind.
So there we were, hugging the fence, hearing the speaker, watching the screen. And I don’t know when it happened, but one minute there we were, all 16 of us hugging the fence in a line, we had had a clear path to the fence, practically skipped there in our alloted pairs, and then suddenly I looked behind and there was nothing, nothing but people for as far as I could see.
So now I guess it is about 8.30 a.m., Nicky correct me if I’m wrong. There we were, hugging the fence, and somehow another few people had got between us so our group was separated in the middle but we could still see each other, we were all grinning and chatting and talking to the people around us, and then slowly slowly, the grinning stopped, the chatting stopped, and by about 10.30 I was SO COLD, I lost the will to live.
(I realise not that it is a bit pathetic to say that, we were standing still for maybe 3 hours altogether but other people had set off hours earlier than us, the ticket people had had to clear security by 7.30 I think and the parade people, some of them had been standing since 4.a.m. and the parade kicked off late, so they may have been standing 8-10 hours.)
We were freezing. There was myself , Lana, M and the Sisters Joan and Laura, and every so often we would huddle together and blow on out fingers and try to pretend our feet weren’t in agony.
A little further along where our gang had kids with them, we heard later that a woman in the crowd picked up one of the kids and pulled her into her enormous fur coat.
And then, IT STARTED and the pain flew out the window. the cheers went up, the flags were waved. famous old guy after famous old guy paraded across the screen, I hear they were Governors or senators or something.A little girl next to me was crying, but not from the cold, she was just saying, ” I wanna see Obama’. I lifted her up, and she looked at the screen and said ‘ who is it?’.
I said ‘ I don’t know, a famous old guy.’
She called out to her mother, “Mama I saw a famous old guy.”
Oh oh oh, any minute now , any minute now!! But first the stringed instruments, the cellos or something, oh please stop, I am sure you are wonderful but we can catch this on youtube later, give us THE MAN.
And they did. There he was. And the crowds went nuts and we did too.
During his speech, I kid you not, around us, you could have heard a pin drop.
People were listening to his every word. I have since heard it many times, I have read it in the newspaper, but I do feel a rush, a swelling, to know that I was there. The anticipation of knowing what he would say would be good but not knowing yet what it would be.
Then he finished. I will admit that when he was finished I was glad. I had read in the paper that his speech would be between 20 and 40 minutes and by that point I was hoping he would err on the side of pending warmth and stick with 20, because I knew I had to find a hospital and get my feet amputated.
Now I will skip ahead about an hour and say, that we trooped merrily back to the marina, all 16 of us following our shepherd, all deep in thought, we all got on the boat and managed teas and coffees and just one hour after that we were laughing about how cold we had been. Actually cracking jokes about it.
Cold as it was the cold was part of the whole experience, the experience was of course the moment, the history making moment, the joy of the crowd, the hope for the future and the people that I got to share this experience with, but the cold was a big part of the mix too.
I will also add, that anyone who saw a tall guy by the subway station with a crate of bottled water handing them out freely to people, HE WAS ONE OF OUR OWN.