Presidential Inauguration Vacation

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Bundled against the cold, John Sheckler (along with several hundred thousand friends) stands near the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background. Sheckler provided this “1st Person” account of his experience at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.

by John Sheckler

I knew when I made the trip to Washington, D.C., for the Inauguration that I would not be close to the actual ceremony. It was my feeling that just to be at the historical event would be enough, and it was.

The opening concert on Sunday was not a difficult crowd. It was big, but there was plenty of space. We could move freely between the Washington Monument and close to the Lincoln Memorial where the crowds became more dense.

On Tuesday, my friends and I came on the train from near Baltimore and were only a few blocks from the Capitol. We made the mistake of heading straight in to the National Mall but became locked in a huge crowd. Thousands of ticket holders were stuck in lines and never made it in to their ticket areas. We hit a dead end and had to backtrack though that crowd, which was by then hundreds of thousands of people. We had no way of knowing that people who entered the mall from the south didn’t have that crowd level.

It was very tight, but an amazing spirit throughout the crowd. Everyone was positive, happy and helpful. At one point on the crowded street, there were fence rails everyone had to step over or crawl under, and strangers were all helping each other, especially the elderly.

We ended up back on the subway and went down by the Lincoln Memorial for the ceremony. There were huge Jumbotron televisions everywhere, so everyone had a good view of the event, even two and one half miles out.

We were happy to get on the Lincoln Memorial for a while and stood in the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech. At the end of the swearing in, there was a huge cheer. A couple of times everybody was chanting “Obama.” You knew it was the entire crowd, all the way from the Capitol 2 1/2 miles to the Lincoln Memorial.

The spirit of the crowd is my fondest memory of the events. Everyone was positive and hopeful for a bright future. There were two million people and no arrests or major injuries. It was truly amazing.

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John Shecker lives in Scott County and is public relations director for Scott Memorial Hospital. He returned to Indiana this past Saturday from a inauguration vacation in Washington D.C.