On Monday (January 21, 2013) I attended the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. This was the historic second inauguration of Presiden Barack Obama and while it didn’t draw the same size crowd as the first inauguration it was still the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. According to the news over 800,000 people attended the inauguration ceremonies (with some estimates over one million) and it was officially one of the highest attendances for a second inauguration of a president. For this blog entry I want to share my experience and some pictures from the inauguration.
My 2013 inauguration day experience started months before I arrived on January 21st. Before the day came I was planning and working my schedule to make sure I could attend. Because I moved to the Washington DC area from Michigan this was going to be my first inauguration as a resident of Virginia. I’ve seen plenty of inaugurations on TV but I really wanted to be part of the hundreds of thousands of people who were expected to pack the National Mall to witness history. I started planning early because I knew that the commute into DC was going to be complicated and I wanted to be completely prepared.
On Inauguration Day my alarm went off at 2:00am. I know that sounds early but I live about an hour away from the closest Metro Station (the DC Metro is the public transportation system that helps to ease some of the traffic issues the area has). By waking up at 2:00am I could get ready, pack up my car and be on the road by 3:00am. Previous experience told me that I had a two hour trip on a normal day so it could easily be a three hour trip today. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11:00am but to get a good spot I knew I had to arrive super early.
After a few quick stops I arrived at my Metro station and took the orange line train to the L’Enfant station (this was the closest station that wasn’t closed for inauguration security . I was at my station before 5:00am and already there were a lot of people waiting to go to the inauguration. The train filled up quickly and when I arrived at the L’Enfant station the place was totally packed. As I emerged from the underground station I was greeted by cold air and a lot of people who were walking towards the national mall.
It was about a half mile walk but I ended up getting a whole lot closer than I thought I would. According to google maps I was just over 500 feet from the Capital building. That was still kind of far away to see the president taking the oath but I had a 21 foot tall jumbotron right in front of me to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I arrived at my spot right around 6:00am and it was still really dark. The sun wasn’t going to come up for another hour. Here’s a look at what I saw when I arrived at my spot:
Here’s a flash shot that shows how many people were there as early as I was:
Civil Twilight Lights Up the Morning Sky
It was still hours from the start of the ceremonies and as I stood in my place I watched as the sky began to brighten and take on some color. I’ve always loved shooting the colors of civil twilight and when you get a subject like the US Capital Building it should make for an incredible picture. The biggest challenge for me was holding my camera steady (it was cold and I couldn’t use my tripod in the middle of the crowd). I took all sorts of shots of the changing colors but this one was my favorites:
Early estimates projected attendance to be between 500,000 and 600,000 and from where I was standing it really looked like a lot of people arrived around the same time I did. Here’s a look behind me (looking towards the Washington Monument) I took around 7:30am:
Sharing in the Moment
As the day went on I was making friends all around me and it was a lot of fun to hear reactions when dignitaries started to arrive. At some point volunteers from the Boy Scouts of America made their way through the crowd and handed out flags. Here’s a look at the crowd when they waved their flags:
During the swearing in the crowd was mostly silent and just basking in the moment. There was silence on the National Mall and all eyes were on the nearest Jumbotron.
Here’s a look at just how many people were behind me on the mall during the swearing in:
Visiting some Washington, DC Memorials
When the ceremonies were concluded it was time to head home. With hundreds of thousands of people there I knew the lines would be super long at the Metro Station I arrived at. So instead of standing in the long lines I decided to take a long walk to the Metro Station at the Arlington National Cemetery (in Arlington, Virginia). It was about a four mile walk but it gave me a chance to take a couple pictures of some incredible memorials on Inauguration day. Here’s some of the images I captured before I arrived at my train station:
And that wraps up my day in Washington, DC. It was my first inauguration and I think it was an experience that’s going to be pretty tough to beat. The ceremony was awesome and the seeing the sights in the capital city is always special to me. The number of people was just incredible and they were all really friendly. I used to wonder what it was like to be at a huge event on the National Mall and now I’ve experienced it. The flag I was waving is now in my office and in the years to come it will remind me of my time at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.