Editor’s note: Four years ago, Laura Sky Brown and her son Henry Brown traveled from Ann Arbor to Washington D.C. for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.
This year they’ve headed back to our nation’s capital to watch the public inauguration ceremony on Jan. 21. The 20th amendment to the U.S. Constitution set the end of each presidential term at noon on Jan. 20. So President Obama took the actual oath of office on Jan. 20 in a private ceremony.
Laura and Henry are filing brief updates along the way, in the spirit of The Chronicle’s traditional Election Day coverage of the polls.
19 January 10:44 p.m. (Toledo, Ohio Amtrak Station): Henry and I are waiting inside a festive station full of travelers en route to the inauguration. Cameraman from Channel 13 Toledo is doing a little video reporting in the waiting area. Train will leave at 11:15 p.m.
20 January noon (Washington, D.C. Union Station): We came in by Amtrak train from Toledo, which left at 11:15 p.m. and arrived just past noon at Washington’s Union Station. Among the other passengers, most of whom were on their way here for the inauguration, there was a group of 28 people traveling together who were mostly older, very well-dressed African American women from Toledo. A news reporter from the Toledo ABC affiliate was there with a camera doing some interviews.
20 January (Rayburn House Office Building, Dingell’s Office): On arrival at Union Station, we walked over to the Rayburn House Office Building. Along the way we passed other Congressional office buildings (they are behind the capitol in the Capitol Hill neighborhood), each with a small line of people waiting to go through metal detectors to go in and get Inauguration tickets, which are handed out by members of Congress to constituents.
I got our tickets, basically, by calling Rep. Dingell’s office nearly every day since November and e-mailing regularly. It paid off in that, when we walked in the door, two aides welcomed us with, “You must be Laura Sky Brown and her son Henry,” and they walked us in to Rep. Dingell’s office and let us sit in his chairs.
20 January (Lincoln Memorial): Henry’s one unmissable sight for today was to go pay a visit to the Lincoln Second Inaugural speech, which is carved into the wall up at the Lincoln Memorial. The walk took about 90 minutes among large crowds, and it was totally worth the walk to stand under the famous lines as well as to see the statue again.
20 January (Union Station): Getting back to Union Station at the end of the day was a challenge involving walking, a taxi, running, the subway system, and more running, as the streets were being closed off one by one all around the Capitol just as we reached them. We made the last train of the day as it was starting to pull out of the station.
We are taking the commuter train back in this morning (Monday) from Harpers Ferry West Virginia, where we’re staying with friends. It doesn’t arrive at Union Station until 9:15 a.m. by which time the crowds should be peaking.
We are anticipating the same major difficulty getting where we want to be for the inaugural ceremony as we had four years ago.
Will keep you posted as the day goes on!
21 January early morning (Union Station): The crowds begin.
21 January 10:10 a.m. (Security Checkpoint): Big crowd but nobody pushing. In sight of entry gates but too close and dark for photo.
21 January 10:29 a.m. (Security Checkpoint): Gate temporarily closed for crowd control; we are very close to getting through.
21 January 11:29 a.m. (Mall): We are on left as we face the Capitol. Weather cool but pleasant. Crowd cheerful and we can hear though not see below the dome from here . People have climbed nearby trees. Henry wanted to but I nixed idea. Chuck Schumer speaking. Crowd goes wild when he says name of Barack Obama.
21 January 11:50 a.m. (Mall): Biden sworn in. We can sort of see even. James Taylor singing America the Beautiful.
21 January 11:52 a.m. (Mall): Here comes presidential oath. Hush over crowd.
21 January 11:54 a.m. (Mall): Crowd chanting O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!
A transcript of President Obama’s full inaugural address is posted on the White House website.
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