Blog Zone: Inauguration 2008

So where have I been all day? And why haven't I updated the blog? Well, I wasn't ignoring the blog that's for sure. I was attending the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, along with 2 million of my fellow citizens. With this many people packed into such a - relatively - small place, and when most of them have cell phones, the airwaves become overwhelmed. I did however, take lots of pictures which I will send to WITN as soon as I can.

10:04 am Tuesday...After some clever crowd tunneling, and a few small arguments, my group and I have found a cozy spot just past the Washington Monument. We have a nice few of one of the 20-plus jumbotrons. But it's not the huge arena-style jumbo trons that we have our eye on. It's the sheer number of people. It's like a sea of people in every direction. This crowds are being called the largest influx of people that D.C. Has ever seen.

8:41 am Tuesday - I'm walking towards the National Mall right now. I'm passing through the Pentagon parking lot. Its still very quiet, but I've got a few miles more to walk. Everyone I have seen so far is giddy and anxious. I'll post more as I get closer.

7:00 am Tuesday - In just 5 hours President-Elect Barack Obama will lose his "elect" status, as he is sworn into office here in Washington, D.C.

In one hour, I'll head out for the national mall, where I'll witness the swearing in of America's first black president.

Although cell service will be limited - due to the enormous amount of cellphones on the mall - I'll do my best to keep this blog updated as events occur.

7:20 a.m. Monday - As I wake up this morning, the first thing I remember is that 12 hours ago I was standing in a frigid security line. But, this wasn't a bad memory, because just a few hours later I was inside the concert grounds singing and dancing to some awesome performances by U2, Bruce Springsteen, Usher, Stevie Wonder, and several more.

Once inside, people were sprinting to try and get front row seats. This mad rush for seats calmed down, and people started looking for ways to pass the 6 hours until the event. People of all races, ages, social groups, and from every state in the union began to mingle and chat.

Bono's excitement was visible, when he sang "Pride (In the Name of Love)", while standing where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech. Bono must have also been excited to perform with the first black president looking on.

But it wasn't seeing U2's emotional performance that had the crowd cheering the loudest. Every time one of the several jumbotrons showed showed a picture of President-Elect Obama, the crowd's erupted in cheer.

Obama sat behind a bullet-proof glass box for most of the event, but he did leave his safe enclosure to speak to the crowd just before the end of the event. In his brief speech, he spoke of the challenges that lie ahead.

Information was also given about the "Renew America" service day, which is taking place today all across the country.

After Beyonce's performance of "America the Beautiful" people started the mass exodus off of the National Mall. It was a scene that I really don't know how to describe in words, other than to say it was out of some type of sci-fi movie.

I learned this morning that the total number of people attending was estimated at 400,000. With all of these people trying to find a subway stop, security officials were overwhelmed, and Constitution ave was shut down to motor vehicle traffic. For those not familiar with the D.C. area, Constitution Ave is a large 4 lane road that connects the Capitol Building to the White House.

If 400,000 people overwhelm security, it will be interesting to see the level of order tomorrow, when somewhere between 4 and 8 times as many people will be attending.

Editor's Note: Paul had planned to blog Sunday throughout the concert, but there was a cell phone overload in Washington, DC, making the sending of updates nearly impossible.

9:50 a.m. Sunday - I'm just in front of the Lincoln Memorial. We got to the security queue at 6:30am, and there were already a little over 100 people in line. Security started letting people in at 8:45, and a small stampede started. As soon as people got through the - minimal - security checkpoint, they started sprinting the half mile to the memorial. The U.S. Army is on hand to maintain order and make sure people do not overrun the barricades. The DC Metro Police are also on hand - in riot gear - maintaining order.

Right now, I'm five rows from the front. However I'm still about 300 yards from the stage. At this point, no one is sure whether they are going to allow us to go in further, or if they are going to make us stay where we are. Most people are reading books, sleeping or meeting new people. The mood is very friendly.

It's about 5 hours to show time.

Paul Blake is 17 years old and from Wilson. He attends a boarding school in Alexandria, Virginia and has a strong interest in journalism.


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