I was able to take two of our grandkids to Washington this past weekend for the Presidential Inaugural festivities.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were able to take in the sights and museums as well as visit up close to the Inaugural preparations.
In contrast to the last Inauguration, the size of the crowd was down some, which is not unusual for a second term President.
As far as the security compared to four years ago, there was some difference, probably due to the anticipated smaller number of people. The biggest difference was that last time all the bridges leading into the area were closed to traffic, but this time remained open.
They did have a 30-mile no-fly zone as well as no boat traffic near the area. In the last several years, overall security has been tightened in Washington and all those measures were in place.
On Sunday, the kids got to walk up to the reviewing stand where the President and family were to watch the parade. Security was strict, but they were still able to get right up to the stand. The same was true for the front of the Capitol where the swearing in was to take place. It was impressive to see the thousands of seats set up for the dignitaries and Government people coming.
Since we were not part of the "elite" visitors (those with tickets and VIP badges), were able to mingle and meet others like us who just wanted to come to witness the events and enjoy Washington. There were so many groups of school kids from all over the country. Many took the chance to sing as a group on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and other places throughout the mall area.
We also met several folks from other countries. One young man came from France just for the inauguration. He told us he wanted to come to Washington ever since grade school when he found out a Frenchman designed and laid out the city.
Everyone we talked to had a story to tell about why they were attending. One lady, (with a walker and in her 70's) explained that even though it was a challenge to make the trip from Mississippi, she felt she had to come. She went on to explain that as a teenager in the 60's, she had been part of a group that had a fire hose turned on them to disperse the crowd. To be in Washington for the Inauguration of an African American President on Martin Luther King Jr. day was an emotional experience for her.
Everyone we spoke to had a story, it seemed. Even those among us who do not necessarily support some of Mr. Obama's agenda still were able to celebrate a country where our leaders are elected and peacefully installed.
While at the White House, the guards stopped all the traffic and instructed everyone there not to move around. Then the gates opened and a convoy on motorcycle cops came roaring out, followed by police cars and then the armoured limo with the Obama girls in the back seat. It was interesting to see them followed by ambulance and then a bomb-disposal truck.
No matter how many times we visit Washington DC or attend the Inauguration, I am struck by what our nation's capital has to offer and hope that anyone who has the chance will visit there as well.