By Elise Kaplan
— A river of wool overcoats flowed in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Jan. 21. People flooded the streets, funneled through barriers and doubled back in great swirling waves when confronted with parade route obstacles. We were a great, unified body trekking through the city on a chilly Monday morning to witness the swearing in of President Barack Obama.
The temperature was cold but, at 40 degrees, at least 12 degrees warmer than last time around. The streets were packed, but estimates suggested there were 1 million attendees, as opposed to 1.8 million for the first inauguration.
That’s a million people arriving on the metro, on a bike or on foot to stand for hours with eyes riveted to the jumbo-trons. Every race, every age, every story was present on the mall that day. Strollers, wheelchairs, crutches and pedicabs moved alongside vendors selling buttons, t-shirts, masks and satirical condoms.
That’s a million people who left their warm beds and their TVs to witness in person the swearing in of a president who has endured criticism and outrage over the last four years. Democrats no longer cling blindly to the hope that Obama can revolutionize the system. Some said during the last election cycle that they felt so betrayed, they refused to vote for Obama the second time around. He has lost the euphoria of a 2008’s historical election and could no longer ride the slogan of change.
But those 1 million people on the mall showed their support for a democracy that lets us change presidents (and parties) every four years without upheaval. As witnesses, we validated our country’s politics and showed faith in elections.
At some point that morning, we were just a crowd of people in winter coats and hats, our feet pointed at the Capitol building, sneaking peeks at the CNN stand to get a glimpse of Anderson Cooper. And then boxes of American flags appeared and soon everyone was holding one. The crowd cheered in unison for Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Nancy Polosi and Michelle Obama. We waved our flags and clapped our gloved hands.
It made me feel like part of a bigger cause, like maybe America is something special. It made me feel like a patriot.