19 January, 2009

It's in the Air

There is a buzz of excitement in these parts.  A ripple that runs through the air due to the upcoming change of presidents.  There are people everywhere!  I am not talking just a few people, but loads and loads of people.  People who flew from all over the country to be here, in the metro area, for the festivities.

Many I know left.  They took their families, packed their bags, and headed for the hills.  They are skiing or enjoying beaches.  They are simply not here as traffic leaving the area illustrated on Friday afternoon.

For months we have listened to the news and the radio warning us of road closures, city inaccessibility, and all the security.  We have heard about Virginia being isolated from the city - meaning the only way to DC is through Maryland.  We have heard warnings of crowd sizes and

Crowded metros.   I, like so many I know, plan to take the day off to

Avoid the crowds and the city; I will stay at home to watch it on TV.

I know that there is something to the excitement that everyone is feeling. 

I had a taste of it Sunday - the excitement, the thrill of the moment.  For a few minutes, I could see why people are gathering on the Mall and in the streets... and for a minute, I wanted to be there too.

And, for a few minutes I was.

A few months ago, before all the security warnings, before the election, before the closures, I bought tickets to see the ballet at the Kennedy Center.  At that point everything was going to be “just another Sunday.”

In fact, until the Wednesday before the performance, it was “just another Sunday.”

Then, suddenly it wasn’t.  The main bridges were closed.  The interstates were closed.  The metros were running on rush hour schedules.

Suddenly Sunday was sounding like a little version of Tuesday.   (Which it was according to officials today)

We negotiated our way into brunch and the show via car.  The trip home was to be done via metro... the trip home gave me a taste of the excitement and the enthusiasm spreading through the city and the country.

The Diva and I turned on to 23rd street NW to get to the Foggy Bottom station.  Having watched the security build around the Kennedy Center before we left, we knew that there would be challenges ahead, but we had no idea what we would find on 23rd street.

What we found was a flood of people moving.  Gone were the college students that usually laugh and chat along the street.  Gone were the cars waiting to turn.  Gone were the students running and studying.

Now there were people.  Streaming people.  A running current of people moving from the Mall to...wherever they were going.

As people moved, slowly but steadily, down the sidewalk, carts lined the curb selling anything and everything. 

Obama hoodies

Obama t-shirts

Obama condoms

  There were newspapers from 5 November 2008. 

There was an African American man telling each African American who walked by that “you’re free.”

There was laughter and excitement everywhere.  A sense of enthusiasm filled the streets.

People weren’t rushed.  They weren’t pushing and trying to get to wherever they needed to go.  They were simply... happy and excited and enthusiastic.

It was awesome to experience - something I have never seen or felt.  I knew, for just those few moments that there was reason to come to DC on Tuesday.

I could see, for just a minute, how and why people are ready to fight the cold and the crowds and endure the security and the lack of food and restrooms.  I was glad I was there, if only for a moment.

“It’s just another president” the Diva commented weeks ago and has repeated various times as she attempts to figure out why there is so much happening around Tuesday’s events.  For her, it is just a change of presidents.  It is just someone else taking the office.  Race, gender, ethnicity... none of it ever crosses her mind.  “Just another president.”

But it is more for many.  From a historical stand point, it is huge.

From a hope stand point, for many... it is such a traumatic statement.

It is the American dream equalized and realized.

There is much hope in the DC area tonight... around the country...

Around the world. 

Although things are a bit above and beyond complicated, if you have any desire to go into DC I would actually suggest that you do it if you can. 

You don’t need to attend any of the festivities... that isn’t required at all.  Just walk the streets.

Just open your mind to all that is happening.  Simply live in the moments that you are there and observe all that is taking place.

The election made history... I appreciate that just as I appreciate the excitement and hope that has been generated.  All politics aside, it is something amazing to experience.



mama llama said...

A student of mine and I discussed this same point of view you mention Diva expressing in class this past week. This brought about a conversation of when it was, in our lives, that we "got it." That we suddenly understood, outside of the lectures and the history lessons our educational system plies us with, the inequities that exist and exactly how hard it is to overcome them...not only here in the U.S. but all over the world. (on FB I posted a NY Times article on the "buraku" of Japan...even if not ethnically different, they have been subjected to deep social discrimination due to the JOBS they held in samurai times. Pretty powerful stuff.). Anyhow, I remember when I feel I "got it"...living as an "ethnic minority" in Japan, where I had children scream and run away from me, having never seen a white girl before. Or adults crossing the street so they wouldn't have to come near me. Or on the train, sitting alone with an empty seat next to me because others would rather stand than sit next to a gaijin.

I got it then. Then I moved from there to New Orleans. I *totally* got it.

Life experience dictates when that will occur. Our children don't get it fully yet. But we can prepare them, talk to them, tell them about Dr. King and what he, and others like him, believed and why he was so hated for that belief...and maybe, just maybe, a connection will be made and this will become a memorable event in our children's lives.

I am excited for you that you experienced this. You put the atmosphere into very powerful words. Thank you.

Be well, TE.

justrun said...

I should have come to visit you. But even from this far away, you can feel it pretty strongly. It's really quite incredible.

MindyMom said...

How great that you and your daughter can experience this together. She may not get the gravity of this historical moment yet, but she will eventually. And she will have witnessed it with her mom. I'm sure she will remember this time well into adulthood. I can feel the energy through your words. Lucky you to be there.

dadshouse said...

How exciting. A friend of mine who lives in Maryland went to the concert this past weekend. She's a huge U2 fan. She said freezing her butt off for 6 hours was totally worth it. Once in a lifetime this Obama event!

Sorry it messed with your ballet. But at least you're feeling the enthusiasm first hand.

Aaron said...

I'm not going to lie. As I watched all those folks converge on DC the entrepreneur in me went nuts with visions of making a killing off of anyone that would buy anything that had Obama's face on it.