On Thursday, January 20th, 2005, I attended the Presidential Inauguration and Inaugural Parade in Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to get tickets from my Congressman, Frank Wolf ( http://www.house.gov/wolf/). It was a cold day, but it was definitely worth it.
The first week in January, I learned that the tickets were being distributed to the public for free by the members of Congress. I figured I would write my congressman and ask if he still had tickets available. He responded a few days later with a letter that indicated, that each congressional office was allotted only 177 standing tickets to the inaugural ceremony and that as of January 1st, his office had received over 1500 requests for tickets. In the letter, he said that his staff was aggressively contacting other members to obtain extra tickets. At that point my hopes of going were fairly low. To my surprise, when I got home from work on Friday, January 14th, I had a message on my answering machine from Frank Wolf’s office. They had managed to get extra tickets and they had two with my name on them for the Gold standing area on the Mall. I went the following morning to pick up the tickets. The Gold tickets were the largest of the tickets made for the Inauguration, which is strange because they were for the section farthest from the Capitol. I guess it is some form of “consolation prize” for those who have to stand that far away.
I got up early and took the Metro into DC. It was definitely a good idea. I left home at 6:30 am and drove to the Vienna Metro station. The Federal Government and many companies that do business in DC gave their employees the day off, so the Metro wasn’t very crowded, yet.
I took the Metro to the Capitol South Metro stop and I arrived in DC at 7:45am, just after sunrise and took a quick picture of the east side of the US Capitol. From this side, it is hard to tell
that something special was about to happen in a few hours.
I had an invitation from Frank Wolf and a few of the other Northern Virginia Congressmen to attend a breakfast social before the Inauguration began. I walked to the Rayburn House Office Building, which was just a few blocks away. I needed to pass through a metal detector to enter the building. I almost turned around, because I knew it would be a hassle taking off my coat, emptying all of my pockets, and putting everything back on after I got in. I stayed about 15 minutes. The only two nice things about stopping was using the bathroom and picking up bottled water.
Security was tight and it was a cold day. News reports said that a 100-block area around the US Capitol and White House were closed off for the events. Everyone attending the events was required to pass through security gates. There was a long list of items that would not be permitted and they recommended taking only items that can be put in pockets. I wanted to bring my new Canon Digital Rebel camera, but it is big and bulky, so I opted for my old Kodak DX3900 digital camera, which fits nicely into my pocket. I knew the pictures would not be as nice, but it was the best decision.
I left the breakfast at 8:30 am and decided to find out where I needed to go for the Inauguration. I started walking west towards the Mall. I passed the Yellow gate and knew that the
Gold Gate would be further out. There was a relatively small group of people (maybe 100 people) waiting by the entrance to the Gold gate. It was scheduled to open at 9:00 am, but they
started letting people in at 8:45. I was able to get in and find a good spot to stand along the front fence just to the right of center. The Gold Standing area was just past the Capitol Reflecting
Pool and it had an area for disabled attendees and their families in front of where I was standing.
Since I arrived early, I was able to find a good spot to stand on the west side of the US Capitol. I was at the front of the section along a fence just a bit right of the center. The Capitol Reflecting Pool was in front of me and the Capitol was about two blocks away. I took a few pictures of the Capitol then made myself comfortable for a long wait in the cold until the Inauguration actually began.
It was a cold morning with the temperatures in the high 20's going into the low 30's. I was dressed warm, but it was still fairly cold. I stood waiting in the cold for about
two and a half hours before the Inauguration activities began.
The crowds were slow to build, but my section filled in well before the event began. I was lucky to be at the front of the crowd.
View of the US Capitol as the Presidential Inauguration ceremony begins.
Prelude The United States Marine Band - Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Colburn - Director
Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks - The Honorable Trent Lott - United States Senator, Mississippi
Invocation - The Reverend Dr. Luis León
Musical Selection - Susan Graham Mezzo-soprano
The Vice Presidential Oath of Office will be administered to Richard B. Cheney by the Speaker of the House of Representatives The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Musical Selection - Denyce Graves - Mezzo-soprano
The Presidential Oath of Office will be administered to George W. Bush by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States The Honorable William H. Rehnquist
Inaugural Address - The President of the United States
Musical Selection - The United States Marine Band, The United States Army Herald Trumpets, The United States Navy Sea Chanters
Benediction - Pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell
The National Anthem - Technical Sergeant Bradley Bennett, The United States Air Force Band
Mike standing on the west side fo the US Capitol watching the Presidential Inauguration ceremony.
I wish I had been a bit closer. They had loud speakers and a Jumbotron TV set up so everyone could hear and watch the ceremony, but I couldn't really see anything live from where I stood. I am glad that I was given the chance to attend.
View of the US Capitol as the Presidential Inauguration ceremony ends.
I knew the roads were closed to cars, but I hadn't realized that it was also closed to pedestrians. After the Inauguration, I wanted to find a bathroom and a place to grab a quick lunch. They really should have had signs pointing to the exits since it was hard to know which areas were fenced off. I took a quick 20-minute tour of the Indian Museum. They have a cafeteria, but the line was too long, so I went towards the Air and Space Museum, which has a larger cafeteria. Unfortunately, the lines just to get into the museum were very long, so I found a hot dog vendor a few blocks further.
After lunch, I walked a long way to find a good place to watch the parade. I avoided a few security check points that had huge lines and finally found a short line in the area around 5th and Constitution. After passing through the security, I found some bleachers that were really for people with paid tickets, but either not enough people bought tickets or the security prevented people from making it so they were letting anyone who agreed not to protest in to sit. There was a large group of protestors on the other side of the street.
The parade began about 45 minutes late. DC Police on motorcycles lead the way as the Inaugural Parade begins.
US Soldiers dressed in historic uniforms march ahead of the President's Limo.
President George Bush's limo drives past. Laura Bush, the First Lady, was on my side of the car. There was a large group of protestors on the other side of the street.
Unfortunately, it meant that the President's limo drove a bit quicker past us.
The Vice President's limo drives past.
DC Police on horseback follow the President and Vice President in the Inaugural Parade.
There was about another 45 minute wait before the rest of the parade followed.
One of the first floats in the Inaugural Parade passes by.
Pipes & Drums Of The Emerald Society of the New York City Police Department play their pipes in the Inaugural Parade.
This New York Fire Engine drove from Ground Zero in New York to participate in the Inaugural Parade.
Girls in colorful dresses from the Mobile Azelia Trail from Mobile, Ala., march in President Bush's Inaugural Parade.
The Crawford Texas High School Band ride on a float in the Inaugural Parade.
A float from the state of Wyoming
The parade was not over when I had to leave around 4:00pm. I continued to listen to the parade on the radio and I know that it didn't end until after 5:00pm. I would have enjoyed staying to see the whole parade, but I needed to get home.
I had a great time, just wish it was a bit warmer. On Friday, I spoke with a co-worker who had planned to attend, but she wasn't able to get through the security barriers so she went to a bar to watch on TV.