The Post Everyone Has Waited For: My Work for the Inauguration of Barack Obama

January 25, 2009

Yes, it’s true, for one week I worked for a major television network to set up and cover the inauguration of our fourty-fourth President.  Let me just say how lucky I truly am to have experienced something so amazing and so up close.  I have a permanent smile over an experience that I never and will never take for granted.  It was a once in a lifetime experience, and as a close family member said, my life has peaked at the age of twenty-one.  I have a couple thoughts, stories, etc. that I will tell in no organized way whatsoever.

I started working the Thursday before inauguration.  I took a red eye straight from Orlando, Florida to Washington, D.C. so I could get my credentials in time (trust me, Capitol Police and Secret Service did not take anything lightly whatsoever).  The first time I walked through security to the trailers on the west side of the Capitol Building, the Capitol Policeman, Tom, asked me my name.  Turns out this guy was one of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met.  And, he never forgot my name from there.

Later that day, I walked to the front of the Capitol Building to see the stage for the first time.  And let me tell you, it was absolutely breathtaking.  Nobody was on the stage except for me and it kind of felt surreal–I knew something amazing was going to happen here in a couple of days but it didn’t seem real and it hadn’t hit me yet.

On Friday, I got the opportunity to go up to the roof of the Capitol to bring up some materials for the camera man.  Looking out from this view was maybe the most amazing view I have ever seen.  Period.  It didn’t hurt that it was a perfect day outside (minus the temperature being in the teens), so visibility was amazing.  At that point, the magnitude of the event still had not hit me, but the realization of how lucky I was and how only a few people ever had got to experience what I was feeling at that moment on the roof.  That day I also got to visit the anchor’s desk and that was also pretty cool.

The next day, Saturday, I got to return to the inside of the Capitol Building, where I had worked as an intern for 8 months in the year 2007.  It was pretty cool being back and it kind of felt like a full circle type thing.  Two years ago, I started my journey as a young Government and Politics major into the world of politics and actually getting involved, and here I was, two years later, working for the inauguration for a historic presidency.  Pretty cool feeling. 

The next day, a couple of interns and I were in the right place at the right time because right after they practiced an official run-through of the inauguration, we sneaked out and took pictures on the platform where Mr. Obama would stand.   However, the greatness of this event still hadn’t hit me, until Monday.

Monday was pure insanity.  D.C. was packed.  You couldn’t move on the Metro, or even on the streets, especially since the road was closed.  At around 8am that day, the lines outside of the House Office Buildings were gigantic, as everyone had to pick up their tickets for the event.  It finally had hit me–this thing was going to be huge.  Walking around the city, I found it impossible to move, and even more impossible to drive in (trust me, we learned the hard way after a four hour round trip to the D.C. Bureau which should have taken 45 minutes at most).

That day, I also was surprised to find out that I would be going to the South Inaugural Ball.  I was lucky, as I knew somebody who worked at the Obama offices.  If this girl is reading this, let me tell you, I adore you.  Although I had a feeling you were the coolest girl I knew before getting me tickets (it was between you and Hillary Clinton), it is now definite that you are the coolest girl I know (besides Hillary has only disappointed me over the past year, and you haven’t).  I can’t say enough great things about this girl.  Anyway, I scrambled last second to get a tuxedo and boy, was I lucky.

The next day was game day.  It took me three hours to get from my apartment, through the Metro station (which was crazy), through security, through Secret Service and finally to our trailer.  It was pretty awesome though that throughout the packed Metro ride everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was chanting “O-BAM-A.”  It was pretty awesome.  Also, everyone in D.C. throughout the week was incredibly nice and friendly.  Everyone talked, laughed and shared stories.  This included me.  Typically on the Metro, I listen to my iPod and mind my own business, but this week I talked to others (mostly tourists) and even gave out my phone number if they had any questions about the city or any problems.  Anyway, I finally got in to work and was ready to go.

Our boss told us to go out to the stage to take pictures, etc. because for the actual ceremony we would be in the trailer (we were all pretty disappointed).  However, on the stage, we had the opportunity to meet and take pictures with most of the following: Denzel Washington, Oprah (she was crying already when I met her), Maria Menoudos (I think that’s her name from Access Hollywood… really hot but pretty crappy attitude), Tobey McGuire (the guy was pretty nice and willing to take pictures with everyone), Oprah’s friend Gayle (also friendly, but probably because she was happy someone noticed her), Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Terrell Owens, Jamie Lee Curtis, and many others.  It was pretty cool that these people were not the main attractions and most didn’t even pay huge amounts of attention to them.

We went to the trailer after a couple hours on the stage where we overlooked the crowd on the mall (which was packed by 6am).  It was pretty overwhelming to see two million people in front of me.  I was really taken aback.  Anyway, we went back to the trailer, and my boss, who is a very close family friend who I have known my entire life (whose daughters, now grown, babysat me and my brother), said to me that I had to deliver something to a camera man on the balustrade (the deck right over the entrance onto the main stage and overlooking the former Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Senators, Congressmen, VIPs, the Biden Family, the Obama family, etc., etc., etc.  He also told the other interns to go deliver the same thing to the cameramen on the press bleachers.  He handed us all passes for the areas we were to go, and said he wanted them back after we delivered the papers to the cameramen.

So, I went to the balustrade and saw the most amazing view of the crowd completely filled in just about a half hour before the event.  The crowd was abuzz with Obama chants and this air of excitement.  It was pretty cool.  Anyway, I delivered what I had to deliver, took my pictures and went back down.  As I re-entered the trailer, my boss said to me to go back… AND STAY THERE!!!

As I stationed myself on the balustrade, I stood, for the most part, with no one in front of me and I had a clear view of the stage.  It was one of the most emotional and overwhelming things of my life.  I was shaking for the first half hour and during President Obama’s speech, it dawned on me that I was one of the luckiest people in the world at that moment.  For a man who doesn’t cry or get very emotional, a tear came into my eye and I became very choked up over the whole thing.  I also didn’t realize that I was completely freezing, but it didn’t matter.  I was literally fifty feet away from President Obama giving his speech.  It was completely awesome.  It made the long hours, early mornings, and other things worth it.

I really didn’t have time to digest everything because immediately from work (which I got out early from) I went to the tuxedo place on Independence Avenue and changed into my tux on the spot.  I immediately went back to College Park to pick up my date and went to the DC Armory.  This event was pretty cool and probably would have been the coolest event ever, but the inauguration slightly overshadowed it.  It was pretty awesome to hear President Obama and Vice President Biden speak (with Biden, of course, getting over excited about nothing, but that’s just him, and why we all love him).  By the end of the night I had been up 24 hours straight and pretty exhausted.

I slept for an hour and woke up the next morning to go back to work to finish up.  It was a quick day, as I pretty much just delivered some gifts to some Capitol staffers on behalf of the network.  I got to walk through the Capitol Building and reminisce on my times there throughout the past two years and then went to the stands on the steps of the Capitol where yesterday’s ceremony took place.  I sat there for a good twenty minutes just reflected for a little on what had happened in the past forty hours of my life.  I realized how lucky I was and how I wished every one of my friends and family could have experienced what I had experienced.  I will continue to say how lucky I am, and this experience will probably take awhile for it to settle in for me completely.  My fellow interns were amazing and my bosses were incredible.  I just can’t believe I got to do something so cool and I am incredibly thankful to all who made it possible.