We were fortunate this past year with many blessings. The re-election of Barack Obama was one of those. We worked hard locally to get our neighborhoods to vote for him. As a reward, we decided to make the trip to DC and attend the Inauguration. Our daughter and her family live nearby in Maryland. We got to see them and this event both in one trip.

Last Monday morning about 5:00 AM, our son-in-law dropped us and our son and daughter at the nearby Metro station. Son and daughter had attended the Inauguration in 2009. Son said we had to get there early, because last time they waited an hour just to get on the train. This time there was no wait at all. We were delivered to our stop quickly.
Soon, we were queued in line with hundreds of other people with yellow tickets. After a wait of less than an hour, the gates opened. We passed through showing we had the right color tickets. Next was a long row of tents with metal detectors and security people. That went quickly and we were soon standing at our chosen spot.

The sun was rising at about 7:30 when we were treated to this view of the Capitol dome.

Melanie and I wrote this diary together, as we sometimes do. Join us below for more pictures and observations about our trip to the Inauguration.

Jim - The day started with temperatures in the 20s and calm winds. The sky was clear to the southeast and allowed the rays of the rising sun to illuminate the bottom of the thin clouds above us. It was a gorgeous sight to see the sun glinting off the dome. As I turned to look west at the gathering crowd behind us, the Washington Monument was bathed in the soft rays of the morning. We were glad to feel the warmth for a couple of hours.

Jim - The area immediately in front of us was paved and led up to the pool in front of the U.S. Grant statue. That paved area was reserved for people with disabilities. I watched the man in the Marines coat. He greeted some others as they arrived. He was also the subject of photographs and a news interview. As you can see, the podium is not too far away. It was about ¼ mile from us. Much closer was security personnel. The man at the left in black was Secret Service. He roamed back and forth most of the morning. Other security was provided by Border Patrol Agents, National Park Service, Capitol Police, DC Police, and others I couldn't ID. Every building had personnel on top as lookouts with powerful binoculars scanning the crowds. No threatening things occurred. I felt safe.

Melanie - It was not uncomfortably cold, in the 30s and almost no breeze. Almost everyone was bundled up with multiple layers and funny hats. You can see at the upper right of this picture something that looks like a billboard. It's actually one of the Jumbotrons, which allowed most people a view of the proceedings. It was far enough away and beyond enough people taller than I, that often I couldn't see it. So we couldn't see the podium itself, and we couldn't always see the Jumbotron, but we could hear everything.

Melanie - Generally people were pleasant and happy, and of course, most people were there not just for the experience of an inauguration, but because they support President Obama. One funny moment came when I was able to see the Jumbotron. During introductions and seating of "dignitaries," members of Congress were being seated. Paul Ryan emerged, showing on the screen. And spontaneously a loud BOOOOO! welled up from the crowd. And then everyone laughed.

Jim - A camera on the front of the Capitol captured this picture as the President was speaking. In view are about ¾ million people by some estimates. I was able to see a very large version of the original image and determine precisely our location. See the yellow arrow. I'm wearing the black stocking cap with an Iowa Hawkeye logo and a burgundy coat. Melanie is in a light blue and gray coat. See us? More excellent images of the day are available at The Atlantic in this 57 photo piece.

Melanie - Along with our yellow tickets, we had an invitation to a reception of the Iowa delegation after the ceremonies. Getting off the mall took several minutes as people were herded out the same small gates in which we entered. At first, my joints were so stiff from the cold of the ground seeping slowly upward, slowly crystallizing my bones as if they were petrified wood! It literally was difficult to step up a curb, and pain permeated the lower half of my body. Soon things started to loosen up and it felt great to walk again.

After breaking free, we headed to the northeast corner of the Capitol, to the Russell Senate Building. We entered through security, found bathrooms, and started to rewarm.

The reception was in a large room, tables at either end and chairs around the edges, wallflower style. On the tables were hot coffee, tea, and cocoa, cakes and cookies. We took advantage of the treats.

"Mr. R__?" we heard to my left. Two of Jim's former high school students, siblings now in their 30s, sat next to us. Both outgoing, very charming, they updated him on their current lives.

Then as we left the reception, we saw our congressman, Dave Loebsack, about to enter. Son and Jim positioned themselves to greet him. He called them both by name and remembered he'd seen Son recently at the university rec center.

Melanie - The interior of the Russell building is beautiful, covered with white marble. At the southwest corner of the building is a rotunda with balcony around, and doors leading out to small balconies. We were able to step out onto one balcony. By the time we left the reception a few minutes later, the balconies were secured and guards were posted. We were glad we'd looked out earlier.

This view from the balcony shows the driveway leading away from the Capitol. The parade started from there. You can see all the security below. Police, secret service, border guards, and others were ready to keep the President -- and us! -- safe.

Jim - As the parade got underway with two marching bands, I could see the Presidential limo approach. In front of it was a van with a TV camera mounted on top. It rounded the curve and was followed by the limo.

The Army's Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps

The President was waving out the nearside back window. I got my camera ready for the chance to capture a picture of him waving. Just as the moment arrived, I pushed the shutter.

What perfect timing. Some guy in front of me waved back and stuck his thumb right over the window of the limo. Oh well, I like the picture anyway. It makes me laugh.

Short videos of introductions, oaths, and music less than a minute each.

Bill Clinton's introduction...

Michelle Obama's introduction...

Joe Biden's oath...

James Taylor's song...

Barack Obama's historic second oath...
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