by Sarah Toce -
Special to the SGN
The crowd erupted in cheers as pro-LGBT President Barack H. Obama addressed the diverse crowd of waiting Americans at the United States Capitol and adjoining National Mall January 21.
The majority of those present at the time-encapsulated building stood in line for more than seven hours for a chance to see the president deliver his second inaugural address. A sea of 800,000 estimated individuals braved the bone-chilling cold to bear witness to history ... and be counted.
AN EARLY START
The day started at 3:30 a.m. for this 29-year-old reporter. The train from Columbia Heights to Judiciary Square was a long one as each car was filled to the brim. We huddled together with excitement, anticipation and, quite frankly, a bit of hesitance. Would it all go as planned? Would the president be safe since all of the anti-gun-control talk post-Sandy Hook? Would we get a good spot in the standing-room-only orange-ticketed section? How many of us would get in? How many of us would be told to go home, sans the experience of a lifetime, for lack of space? All of these thoughts and more flooded my mind as my wife, photographer Stephanie Brusig, and I stepped into a moment of our lives we would not soon forget.
As we exited the train and ran into the already crowded streets at 4:30 a.m., we hopped into line to wait another three hours before our section opened. There we stood another three hours. It was approximately 20 degrees. We weren't going anywhere. No one else was either.
THE PRESIDENT ARRIVES
As the festivities officially began and members of Obama's administration filtered down the steps of the Capitol building, the crowd shone in the new sun. This was what we had all waited for and we were ready to receive it. Whatever his message might be, we were ready.
As America swore in the returning president for a second term, a silence filled the crowd. We were riveted -mesmerized -by the freethinking man with the shiny, progressive ideas.
The Secret Service was everywhere, but the agents could not quiet the one group of protesters who felt it necessary to scream 'Obama is a baby killer' throughout the service. The music played louder.
Perhaps one of the most telling moments of Obama's speech began: 'We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -that all of us are created equal -is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.'
There was silence ... and then, as Stonewall was referenced, a sea of applause and hollering -the good kind -reverberated throughout the barricades. We were noticed!
Once again, there was applause: 'We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty,' said Obama. 'The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.'
Another moment of note that hit home to our strikingly diverse community of people: 'It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters, can earn a living equal to their efforts,' Obama proclaimed. 'Our journey is not complete until our Gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.'
Choirs, musicians, famous singers and songwriters (James Taylor, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson) took the stage to relay their support for the 57th Presidential Inauguration -and Obama's second term.
Approximately 800,000 Americans, immigrants, and visitors made the trek toward warmth following the prestigious ceremony. While the cold lessened over time, Obama's promises to a new and united America remained.
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