January 21, 2013

Inauguration's significance not lost on Bee blogger

Modesto's Maria Figueroa writes a fourth blog installment on her time at the inauguration in Washington, D.C. She talks about the historic day and how she captured a glimpse of President Obama.

WASHINGTON — What a day! I have been up since 5 a.m. but I feel as if this day flew by so quickly.

It is perfectly fitting that this historic day falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, thousands of supporters in 1963 bared hot August temperatures facing one side of the National Mall as thousands of supporters in 2013 shivered through icy January temperatures facing the opposite direction.

Two great men, both trying to unify a nation and move it forward. That was the main message I heard today as President Barack Obama delivered his speech after being sworn into office.

The crowd seemed to agree as they cheered him on with enthusiasm and inspiration. He truly is presidential. Regardless of your opinion of his policies, one can't deny his presence at the podium when speaking to the nation.

Of course, President Obama was the main draw, but the crowd went absolutely crazy when Jay-Z stepped onto the balcony accompanied by his wife, Beyonce. The royal family of hip-hop and the first family, together on one stage. This is definitely a new America, and I like it.

Beyonce, James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson all performed patriotic song selections as part of the festivities. The whole ceremony had it ups and downs with the various speakers, but overall I think it was a good show and a good start to the next four years.

Following the ceremony I stopped to meet a friend for lunch before leaving just in time to make it into the parade area. I wasarticularly excited about this because I knew this would be my chance to see President Obama close up as he usually exits the motorcade for a moment to walk down the route.

Keeping with the "tight security" theme, officers from every branch of the military and special police lined the entire parade route. They stood completely still, for hours, without discussion or breaks, keeping a stoic watch for any threat to the Commander in Chief.

At this moment, my discomfort seemed so paltry compared to these brave men and women who willingly make it their duty to stand watch when needed. Sensing this beautiful scene, the sun came out and gave us a little warmth to help keep us positive. Soon, a blare of horns rang out and we all turned to the end of the street.

The parade began with a procession of military officers and different brigades with upbeat band music. I knew President Obama was near as the crowd began to roar.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America."

I stretched myself over the crowd to catch a glimpse, but he was in his car. The motorcade approached and though I tried to see, I could not make out where he was! With blind hope, I stuck my camera up above the audience and snapped a few pics. And then it was all over. Not sure if I had gotten a good shot, I headed to Red Velvet Cupcakery for a coffee, a treat and a much-needed rest.

As I sat to enjoy my cupcake, I scanned through the days pictures feeling both proud and happy to have been a part of this day. Reaching the parade photos, I saw a clear shot of the Presidential limousine. "Did I get it???" I wondered as I zoomed in on the window. There, peaking behind bulletproof glass, was a waving, smiling president. I am buying a lottery ticket this week, my luck meter must be running on high this month.

And really, without any kind of prize or validation, I am very lucky — as we all are. We have the right to vote for a leader we believe in, to speak out and against things we feel as wrong, to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

So my adventure is done. I need a long bath, a refreshing cocktail and maybe a new spine. In total, I spent about an hour watching the ceremony, an hour having a sit-down lunch and about 30 minutes watching the parade, the rest of the 12 hours were spent navigating among thousands of people in a 10-block radius.

Even so, I do believe it is worth it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will remember until the day, well, my luck finally runs out.

Happy Inauguration and MLK Day 2013!

Video of 'God Bless America"

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