I'm really not an early riser. I sure don't like the cold. And I certainly don't care for standing around for hours on end in freezing temperatures after getting out of bed really early and without enough sleep. But on Tuesday this week in Washington DC I gladly put aside all of these personal disinclinations to be on the National Mall for the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Sure it was uncomfortably cold as I waited, standing in the one spot for five long hours in frigid temperatures after being up since 4AM. Not only that but, like the majority of the other people that crammed all the way from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building on Tuesday, I didn't even catch a firsthand glimpse of the miniature faraway figure of Barack Obama on the steps of the Capitol Building. Instead I only got to see him (and everything else) on one of the many JumboTrons that were set up along the National Mall. But none of these temporary, uncomfortable inconveniences mattered one iota to me or seemingly to anyone else who had gathered in the numbingly cold pre-dawn to late morning hours patiently waiting for the historic ceremony to begin. It was all well worth it.
While varying reports I have read estimated Tuesday's turnout to be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million, all seem to agree that it was a landmark event with a stunning turnout. Consider in comparison that for the last inauguration, George W Bush's second in January 2005, that a mere 100,000 showed up, and many of them were protesters. Meanwhile, for this year's inauguration festivities an estimated 10,000 charter buses, packed with revelers from as far away as Chicago and California, descended upon Washington for Tuesday's events and the couple of days leading up to it. So crazy were the numbers arriving in the nation's capitol that not only were all hotels in the DC area completely booked (many reportedly jacking their rates way up in a direct correlation to demand) but hotels up to a three hour drive in all directions out of DC were also booked up. One guy told me how his friend had rented out his DC apartment for $2000 for a night. In fact, get this, even all the campgrounds in the greater DC area were all booked up, and trust me, this is not camping weather on the East Coast. Many, like me, were lucky to have friends living in the DC/Maryland/Virginia areas who they could stay with.