Live-Blogging the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama

Jeffrey Hill blogs from the packed streets of Washington, D.C.

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4:30 p.m.

Last update. I’m heading up to DuPont Circle to close the day with some merriment and hopefully, food. It was great to be around such a wonderful crowd today. Congratulations to the city for hosting this event with relatively few hitches. Congratulations to our new president and well-wishes to all.

There were definitely one million people here today. I think the sound and feel of one million people holding hands and feeling good about the future and our potential as a nation is something that will stick
with me for a while. I’m excited that Americans are thinking about ways to change their lives and sacrifice for a selfless cause – building new bridges and expanding our methods and mindsets.

Good luck, America.

4:00 p.m.

President Obama just drove by our spot. It feels good to write “President Obama” without the “elect.” It feels even better to write “former President George W. Bush.”

Eighteen-year-old Kyosuke Omeda, the only confident English speaker of his group, which is visiting from Yokohama, Japan, said that he and his friends had a feeling Obama would win and saved up money this summer to make the trip out to D.C. for the inauguration. Kyosuke and I are in the same boat with no plans for the evening.

Food vendors must be making a killing. I’ve passed two lunch carts that have run out of food and I’m getting quite hungry.

3:30 p.m.

Fueled by coffee and relieved from a relatively clean bathroom, I have secured a decent spot for the parade despite not having a ticket for the bleachers. I seem to be swimming in good luck today – reliable Internet, respectable viewpoints, a bathroom – and all without spending a dime. I am about 300 feet from the largest wall of photographers I have ever seen.

No plans yet for tonight. Anyone have any ideas?

2:45 p.m.

I finally made it indoors to an Au Bon Pain on K Street. Warmth!

Talking to inauguration attendees yielded some wonderful stories. A married couple, both in their mid sixties, braved the weather and drove here from Wyoming to see the nation swear in an African American president – something they said they didn’t expect to see in their lifetime. The husband, who voted for McCain, said he has been impressed by the way young people seem to look up to Obama. The wife, who has voted democrat since Richard Nixon, said she felt it was time to hand over the responsibility of leadership to the next generation. “The Baby Boomers aren’t babies anymore,” she said. “A lot has changed since we were children.”

There is a sense of community among this crowd – I see people sharing blankets and clothing. Some bloggers and reporters are sharing their Internet connection. I’ve let at least five people outside of my party check and send personal e-mails.

One man from Tennessee said this is the first time he and his twelve-year-old son have been to Washington D.C. A writer from Baltimore tells me the event is helping him sort through a bout with writer’s block. “Like you, I’m collecting stories,” he said.

Separating from my companions, I am now trying to catch wind of some post-inauguration celebration opportunities and how I’m going to get home through this mess.

2 p.m.

Thumbs up to all the D.C. Police and city volunteers who are working today. From what I have experienced, they have been patient, helpful and kind. One officer told me he’s been on duty for over 18 hours.

Just heard that a woman was killed when she was hit by a train from the Metro Red Line – my way home tonight. Hopefully, this will be D.C.‘s only accident today. (update: Looks like she’s all right! Thanks, Patrick.)


I have not been able to walk or move in any direction for the last 40 minutes. Apparently, it is much more difficult to get one million people to leave a single area than it is to have them slowly trickle
into one over a period of three days. The hope and optimism from an hour ago has turned into frustration. Everyone is cold but nobody is moving. Does anyone know where to go? Sidewalks within a half of a mile of the National Mall are in gridlock.

1:00 p.m.

Some quick thoughts –

Most common reaction to Obama’s speech – “I’m just glad he’s the president now.”

Approximate percentage of national mall crowd Web blogging – about 40 percent.

What are these Vendors going to do with all of the Obama inauguration T-shirts they didn’t sell?

Post-Obama speech – largest flood of people looking for a bathroom in the history of man. I still don’t see where the bathrooms are.

We’re trying to steer towards the Capitol and closer to the source of a “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” chant that has sustained throughout the event.

12:30 p.m.

I found a park bench to stand on with a decent view of a Jumbotron not far off from the national mall. Arrived about halfway through Vice President Biden’s oath. The crowd, diverse in age and ethnicity, is excited, yet nervous. Everyone is waiting for something to happen. One attendee tells me that she feels the energy of the crowd is America’s way of showing the politicians who is really in power in America. Well said.

As Obama takes the oath, he stumbles over the first few lines. A hush falls over the crowd. “Is he president yet?” a young girl screams. A sigh of relief. “Yes he is! We have a Black president!” answers another and everyone cheers. Bloggers type. Couples embrace. I take notes.

President Obama: “We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

And then, Rev. Lowry gives his beautiful invocation. I put down my pen and hold hands with the woman standing next to me. Will we answer this massive call for sacrifice?

11:30 a.m.

Just caught my first glimpse of the inauguration crowd from 9th street headed north… I’ve never seen this many people gathered in one place before… It’s a good feeling. The sound of it
all is overwhelming.

11:00 a.m.

The drive into D.C was remarkably easy. There is little to no traffic on 495. We use 295 to get in, find parking at Mall and hop onto a shuttle. Passengers come from as far as Singapore. Flying in was easy, says our guest. I am getting messages from co-workers reporting that there was no traffic around the airports and that the commute to work was extremely fast.

D.C.‘s scare campaign has paid off. No massive catastrophes to report (besides parking). I’m going to be late for everything. I’m hoping to catch a nice view of a Jumbotron screen from the mall. I just saw one of the infamous “prostitute-free zone” signs. Wow.

Trying to find a security gate to enter and I have yet to spot a celebrity…

9:00 a.m.

Rockville, MD

Several Metro stations were closed this morning along the red line and there’s not a free parking space to be found. At the Shady Grove station at the very end of the red line, a line of cars are turned away. It was too cold to venture out at 3:00 a.m. as planned, but heading out at 7:00 a.m. proved to be a mistake.

It’s amazing that in a mere four hours, congestion has shut down a major Metro line along all stops. A steady stream of pedestrians, wrapped in layers of coats and blankets, trickles down Rt. 355 towards the various stations. Most of them are excited. Everyone is cold. Everyone is talking about quicker and easier ways into the city. The quickest way to the inauguration, oddly enough, seems to be by car,
as the rush hour into D.C. is absent this morning. No mess on Rt. 270 and my party wants to give it a try. We’re going to try several of the Metro stations and some Metrobus stops. But to quote a Metro transit employee guarding the Shady Grove kiss and ride parking lot when asked for a recommendation: “I think the best seat for the inauguration is in your living room right now.”

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