Made it to the swearing-in ceremony at 6 a.m. to stand in line. Our silver tickets got us a spot behind the Capitol reflecting pool, but we soon learned that these weren't special seats by any means. The line to enter stretched for blocks and turned into a crazed power walk when the gates opened. As the crowd started moving, people started to jump line, receiving boos from people who had been in line well before dawn.
The group provided some break from the cold winds in the below-freezing temps. We ended up making friends with Ki-Jana Carter, former NFL football player who was drafted No. 1 in 1995. He was there with his mother, who was a total sassy riot. The four hours of waiting involved a lot of shivering, numb toes and leg bounces to keep your knees from locking up. The complaints quickly diminished as the ceremony began. Those who chose to wear two pairs of socks or chuck hand warmers in their shoes were the lucky ones.
The crowd filled the Capitol lawn as some maneuvered their way atop statues. Turning around, the National Mall was a sea of movement. Halfway down the Mall, waving flags created a dizzying collage of red white and blue. Obama's speech echoed off the buildings, only interrupted by deafening screams of excitement.
The moment hit the crowd at different times. A deep sigh in front of you. A woop down the way. Sniffling to your right. An enthusiastic "Amen". When Obama took the stage, the crowd grew silent, eyes pinned to the big TV screens or tightly squinting to make out moving bodies on the Capitol steps. When he was officially sworn in, the crowd became a sea of hugs from family, friends, and total strangers. This is what we came here for.