WASHINGTON – Washington, D.C. wore a morning chill as an estimated one million people gathered to be a part of the 2013 Presidential inauguration and parade on Monday.
I was among them, layered with the necessary clothing to keep warm. I drew very little comfort from the fact that the temperature was twice as high as it had been for the historic first inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.
The metro transportation system, city streets and security check points were congested with spectators eager for the day's events – all a part of Obama II.
There were no big displays of frustration with the process of getting through security checkpoints that had six lanes per block with thousands at each entry point. Those carrying big bags and folding chairs had two choices – leave them or take them back to the car and get back in line. To no surprise, there was a nice collection of goodies at the gates.
Once inside, you could feel the excitement and adrenaline as people rushed to position themselves to get a view of the 44th president on the parade route. Music played over loud speakers, helping to ease the eight-hour wait along. Yes, eight, long, standing hours of waiting.
The music featured a variety of music artists, with Stevie Wonder the crowd favorite. When his songs were played, a good portion of the crowd joined in.
All of this played out amid security that included members from each state's law enforcement department, along with different branches of the military in their dress uniforms.
All of sudden, there was a roar of cheers. The Presidential motorcade – including a couple of big black Chevy Suburbans that looked like luxury tanks – turned the corner and rushed down Pennsylvania Avenue. The custom security SUVs had nothing on the two Cadillacs that followed it.
The crowd went crazy. One of the Cadillacs carried the President's family, easing by with dual flags on the hood and bulletproof glass. We weren't certain if the President was in there, but several people in the crowd spotted his daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Loud speakers delivered the sounds of the Inauguration. The crowd cheered as the President Obama made some key points during his address. After several hours of standing in the cold, the loudest cheer came after benediction. It was going to be much longer, right?
Not the case. The parade was scheduled to start at 2:30, but didn't get under way until 3:15. Amazingly, no one tripped out over the delay. People were disappointed, but they didn't drift into a world of complaining.
As the announcer called out who was coming down Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade line, the crowd finally heard "ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States."
The crowd roared and cheered like music fans do when artists enter the stage at the start of their performances. There were no walls to hold the sound. We were outside in an open area and still these cheers were just as loud and sustained.
Secret Service agents surrounded the President's armored Cadillac, with armed security along the route on rooftops. President Obama leaned as close to the window as he could, waving, smiling and pointing to the crowd as though he knew them personally. The crowd got louder, yelling out his name.
As the motorcade drove away, many were visibly in awe of having seen the commander-in-chief.
"This is my second inauguration parade," said Lillian Lee of Raleigh, N. Car. "It was just as joyous and exciting as 2009."
Darlene Marshall of Louisville, Ky. added, "I wanted to see this event because it (an African American as president) may never happen again."
Renee Sanders-Lawnson of Cordova said she had a personal reason for being there, noting that her mom had been a civil rights worker.
"The most excitement is just being here," she said. "My mom would have been proud to see this. I wish she could have been here to be a part of this."
Tracy White-Hanks of Washington said her experience was "everything I thought it would be and more. Today I am proud to be an American."
Joseph Frazier of Sterling, Va., said the second inauguration of Barack Obama "confirms his legitimacy as the first African-American president of United States. Through his leadership and vision for America, it proved to his critics that he has what it takes to be the leader of the free world.
"This country is more diverse and more open-minded and his inaugural address capitalized on (the) true tenets of the constitutional rights and freedoms of all human beings of this great nation."