With American flags waving and shouts of support, my family and I joined more than 800,000 people on Capitol Hill and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the Fifty-Seventh Presidential Inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Following President Obama’s decisive election victory on November 6, our family knew that we would make the trek to Washington, D.C. to witness his inauguration for the second term. We missed the first inauguration because the kids were simply too young. My daughter, Laura, was six-years-old and son Kobi was a mere two-years-old. For the 2012 election, the kids were older, and were interested and fully engaged in the political process: they listened with us to the blow-by-blow accounts of the campaign on NPR; watched all debates—even if was a day or two after the actual debate; and spoke about politics with their classmates. They even asked to watch video clips of campaign-related skits on
We slowly began preparing to attend the inauguration after the election. We’re transplants from the D.C.-area, so we knew we could combine visiting family and friends with inaugural activities. In December, I reached out to my congressman Representative Donald Payne Jr. and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez with ticket requests to inaugural activities.
We waited and waited for a response from our elected officials about inaugural tickets. On Sunday night, January 6, I received an email about purchasing Inaugural Ball and Parade tickets. I eagerly logged onto the TicketMaster website, but the site froze several times. After multiple tries, eventually all tickets were sold out. Despite the fact that we had no inaugural tickets in hand, we planned to head down to Washington to visit with family in Alexandria, Virginia, and take part in the open inaugural activities on The National Mall and at Smithsonian museums.
So, you can imagine my sheer excitement when I received an email on Thursday, January 17 with the subject line “URGENT Inauguration Ticket Pick-up” from Rep. Payne Jr.’s congressional office. Jumping for joy, I had no idea where I was going to be sitting at the ceremony, but rejoiced that “I had a ticket!” to attend this historic event. My husband was not able to travel to Washington for the inauguration due to prior a commitment, but my mother, Sylvia Bryant and brother, Anthony Bryant had already made plans to attend one of the inaugural balls.
We traveled with my mother to Washington on Friday afternoon, January 18. We spent the entire Saturday with family in Alexandria. On Sunday morning, we picked up tickets from Congressman Payne’s office. They had reserved two tickets in my name for the Swearing-In Ceremony in the “Gold” section, a standing area. I have to admit that I was a tad bit disappointed that I wasn’t in the seated section, but knew that it was a privilege to receive tickets to the ceremony. I inquired about the possibility of additional tickets for family members. The congressional staffer suggested that I call back about 4:30 pm, before the office closes.
We called the congressman’s office at 4:30 sharp about the additional tickets. Indeed, tickets were available, but we needed to come right away. Score! We hopped on the Metro from U Street where we had just finished eating supper. We arrived at the Cannon Office Building about 10 minutes after 5 pm to find all entrance doors locked shut. We called the staffer and — to our relief—she brought the tickets to the door.
In observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday, we walked from Capitol Hill to join family members at the MLK National Memorial. As the temperature dropped by the minute, we briefly stopped on the National Mall at CNN’s outdoor studio. The kids joined Obama supporters for a “moment of fame” on national television as the camera panned the crowd, shouting “Obama! Obama!”.
The MLK memorial was breathtaking and a fitting tribute to the civil rights leader. After picture taking and reading the monument’s inspiring inscriptions, we checked into our hotel and turned in for the night, in anticipation of Monday’s inaugural activities.
Bright and early on Monday, we took the Metro to the designated stop for Gold ticketholders. Excitement filled the air, as complete strangers greeted each other with broad smiles and peppered each other with questions of “Where are you from?” We instinctively knew where each person was headed.
Walking toward the Gold ticketholder gate, we proudly showed our gold ticket to the TSA officers and entered the open field to claim our space. We made our way to the front of the field near a large screen so our six-year-old could see inaugural festivities and be situated at the center of the Capitol Building for optimal viewing of the podium.
We cheered with the crowd as former presidents, elected officials and the First Family entered the ceremony and stood mesmerized by the live musical selections from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce, among other musical artists.
When President Obama took to the podium for his inaugural address, the crowd stood silent at first and erupted into roars of approval throughout the speech. It was truly spectacular for us to be among hundreds of thousands of people who support justice for all people at this symbolic event. The kids knew that they were witnessing history in the making.
We planned to attend the inaugural parade, but after walking for what felt like 10 miles to a Metro stop that wasn’t crowded with inauguration revelers, we all agreed that we could watch the parade from the comfort of the hotel room with a hot cup of apple cider.
And we did just that!
Shanta Gyan and her family live in Maplewood.