Another post of a joyous memory. It’s likely that the Mall won’t be filled with crowds on January 20, 2021, but joy will be in the air again. I harbor the hope that even those who didn’t vote for Joe Biden will be happy that the chaos is over.
Joy in the air
by Rebecca Fass, Westchester County, New York
My husband and I went to Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. We didn’t have tickets to any event, but we were determined to go. My frail elderly aunt had traveled from England to stay with us to watch the returns together, and I had promised her that we would go to Washington if he won.
A clear memory of that weekend was that it felt like a giant block party, which was in stark contrast to the previous inauguration that we had attended. We had been outraged at how W. had been awarded the electors of the state where his brother had been governor and, therefore, the presidency by Supreme Court Justices appointed by his father. There was something so wrong with that that we felt we had to do something.
That weekend, there were protestors everywhere, equally enraged, as well as a lot of people wearing cowboy boots and women with big hair. We decided to go to the Supreme Court, the scene of the crime. On the way there, a cowboy-booted young man deliberately crashed into me, knocking me to the ground. I was unhurt, but dumbfounded by his aggression. It was a foreshadowing of the anger the Trump voters feel towards those that disagree.
The mood in 2008 was completely different. There was joy in the air, excitement, disbelief that Obama had won. Everywhere we went, people were eager to tell us where they were from, how far they had travelled, and how they felt when the election was declared. There was a huge concert at the Lincoln Memorial with a variety of artists, including Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and James Taylor. Pete Seeger and the ever loyal and hardworking Bruce Springsteen sang This Land is Your Land, which was very moving, because it did feel like it was our land.
It was terribly cold that whole weekend and on into Inauguration Day. That day, we dressed as best we could, with toe warmers in our boots, long winter underwear, and hand warmers in our mittens. We left for the Mall before the sun was up and headed for the Washington Monument, where a ticket wasn’t necessary, figuring up on the hill we could at least see the Capitol.
We watched as the Mall became filled, with the crowd extending beyond us towards the end of the Mall. Even though the speakers were far away, since there were jumbotrons set up near us, we could see what was going on. At one point, I wondered about a strange wave of thumping sounds. It finally dawned on me that the sound was thousands of hands clapping while wearing mittens. My husband and I were surrounded by over a million happy and hopeful people, and it made me feel strangely buoyant.
Although I could barely walk at the end because my feet were so cold, I never regretted having been there. In the dark Trump days, it has been hard to hang on to those feelings of joy, but seeing people spontaneously start dancing in the street and watching the world celebrate when Biden won has certainly helped.
Fass family photos, left to right:
Overflow crowd listening to Aretha at the Kennedy Center; the view from the top of the mall; Michael Fass and friend.