Inauguration ’09: I Saw Nothing But Felt Everything

crossposted at

Call it the great “Purple Gate Conspiracy” of 2009. Call it the “mishandling of a moment” call it whatever you like, but I did not get into the swearing-in ceremony of the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Smiling Mama didn’t either. She writes, “Oh, purple gate, purple gate, how you let me down…It all started out fine. Yes, hoards of people and long lines and some confusion, but that was expected. People were happy, talking to their neighbors, a few cheers of ‘Yes we can!’ and ‘Fired up! Ready to Go!’ could be heard in different sections of the line. Then, we–and hundreds and thousands of other purple ticket holders around us–started to get nervous as it approached 9am then 9:30am then 10am then 10:30am then 11am with NO MOVEMENT. Well, slight movement, but I’m convinced that was just the crowd condensing itself. Something went terribly, terribly wrong at the purple gate.”

Smiling Mama and thousands of others are still unsure what happened at the purple, blue, and silver gates but thousands of ticket-holding people did not get in.

The Washington Post has raw video of some of the gate problems and I did my best to lift my arms (not an easy task) and snap a pic.

Waiting at the gate

Once I navigated my way out of the doomed purple gate line and onto the Mall (alllll the way in the BACK by the Washington Monument) I could hear the ceremony over the loudspeakers. With two million of my closest friends.

Then it was time to try and sprint back to my hotel, grab my ball gown, and head back into the heart of chaos.

Yeah. That took three hours and I missed the media entry cut-off time for the ball.

So after NOT getting into the ticketed area of the swearing-in AND missing the ball am I excited? Am I delusional from the crowds? Did all that walking get to me?

No, I’m not delusional. Because today I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my fellow neighbor and witnessed change.

Today I walked and walked and felt the crush of bodies against my own…and witnessed change.

I may not have seen it in the flesh. I may not have seen it on the jumbotron.

I saw change when the woman next to me in the sea of humanity reached out and embraced me after we heard ‘…so help me god’ over the loudspeaker.

I saw change when in the midst of chaos and dangerous crowd conditions community organizers, yes those Obama campaign volunteers, took charge and parted the sea of people for ambulances and to regain order.

I saw change when two million people pushed and shoved with politeness and smiles.

I saw change when returning to my hotel dejected, ballgown now hanging in the closet, word comes of a party in the hotel bar and grill. Our own neighborhood ball.

And I saw change as the woman on the metro and the people in the hallway and the television and the radio all say the words “President Barack Obama.”


  1. It’s too bad you didn’t get to directly witness the inauguration, but you were there. The excitement of the crowd is what separates people who went from those of us who only watched it on TV. I’m glad to vicariously experience that excitement through you.

  2. So disappointing about PurpleGate, but you describe the feeling of the crowds (and the country–at least most of it) perfectly. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the thrill of hearing the words “President” and “Obama” spoken together…

  3. Man…you’ve got me crying all over again.

    Reminds me of Invesco, except I finally got in just as Al Gore hit the stage.

    Thanks for braving everything to share this with us.

  4. can we see pics of your ball gown please?

  5. We just started following each other on Twitter. I liked your post! Here in the UK I watched on the BBC. They moved the kiddies programs to another channel for full coverage. Until I read your blog I was unaware of problems for people getting in. Uplifting to hear the crowd near the back was in as high spirits as the crowd near the front.

    Was that ‘oath’ blunder by the Supreme Chief Justice John G. Roberts (Republican) a carefully crafted last chance attempt by the Republicans to embarass the new Democrat President?

  6. Minnie I’ll do a post on the gown never worn! With pics! soon! why am I using so many exclamation points! I don’t know!

  7. We watched the inauguration on both BBC and CNN. A local TV station too had it on and our power cut was moved forward so that there would be power throughout the inauguration time! [We have daily power cuts of 30 mins in my state here in India]. I cried through most of Obama’s speech and during the benediction prayer at the end.

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