Blaine couple recounts trip to Obama inauguration

Published on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 by Suzanne and Larry Conrad

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Blaine couple recounts trip to Obama inauguration

By Suzanne and Larry Conrad

We left home on Tuesday, January 13, and stayed near the Baltimore airport that night. After visiting family, it was off to Washington, D.C. on Sunday, January 18. We stayed in Jessup, which is about 10 miles south of the Baltimore airport and 10 miles north of the end of the Green Metro line.

We got up early Monday morning to take the Metro into D.C. and pick up the tickets for the inauguration we won in the lotto that U.S. Representative Rick Larsen had. There were long lines to get into the offices.

Now it is 3 a.m. on Tuesday, January 20 and we are up. We leave our motel at 3:40 and take Highway 32 over to I-95 south toward Washington, D.C. After a long backup on the freeway we found our exit, parked and managed to get on a Metro train by 5:30 a.m. and to D.C. by about 5:50. We found the area where “silver ticket holders” were to line up for security (which was not going to open until 8 a.m.) by 6. We were thousands back in line, but ahead of many more thousands and packed in tight.

Finally, we are moving! After going through a security checkpoint, we are now on the mall! It is now about 8:15 a.m. OK – we’re going to be here at least four more hours, and we have already been out in the cold and on our feet for three hours. Are we going to make it? Well, thanks to those little packets that heat up when you shake them and then slip into your shoes or boots and behind your back at your waist, and in your front pockets in your slacks, and in your hands, and lots of smiling and chatting with strangers, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (but not much water – only enough to keep from becoming dehydrated – no one wants to go to the porta-potty in this cold) – it is 11 and the pre-program music has begun! We are going to make it!

The boys and girls choirs from San Francisco are wonderful, and all the happy smiles are such a treat. No one is complaining. No one is upset. Everyone feels lucky to be here. As near as we can tell, the crowd is about 75 percent Black/African American and the rest is mostly white, some Asian Americans and Native Americans, and one fellow from Australia, who came just for inauguration. Those were just the ones we could see or talk to. We were among 1.8 million.

This was an extraordinarily moving experience. During the Oath of Office, everyone was either grinning or crying. We were doing a bit of both.

We left the mall about 12:30 in the midst of hundreds of thousands who all seemed to be going to the same Metro station as we were. It took us over two hours to get those five blocks and onto the Greenbelt train, but we got back to our motel by 3:30 p.m.

We got into our ‘jammies, drank some hot tea, and got under the covers. By the time we warmed up, we were asleep. We woke at 5 and watched the rest of the parade on TV as well as the balls in the evening. It was an awesome day!

The next morning, we went back into D.C. and after a morning coffee at Senator Patty Murray’s office went to lunch in the Senate office building and then over to the Capitol building to watch the U.S. Senate for a bit. When we finally got into the gallery (more lines, more security check points, and more waiting) it was about 2 p.m. and absolutely nothing was going on in the chambers.

After about 10-15 minutes, Senator John Kerry came onto the floor, was recognized, and started talking about the vote for Hillary Clinton’s appointment for Secretary of State. He said they would be voting on it that afternoon – so we stayed put!

At about 4 p.m., things were getting pretty exciting to watch. The senators had to come to the floor to cast their votes, so we saw nearly all of them. When the voting time expired, the results were announced, and a huge cheer and round of applause broke out from the gallery (you’re not supposed to do that, but we did), and Hillary was approved 94 to 2!
We went back to Senator Patty Murray’s office and after picking up some things I wanted to go to the ladies room, so we headed down the hall and around the corner where we almost bumped into six nice young men all standing in the hallway. I joked with them about not having an office and being forced to meet in the hallway, and they joked back that they were my honor guard.

I said I was only going to the ladies room and we all laughed. I left Larry standing with them and went on down the hall.

I was gone – maybe four or five minutes, and when I came back, Larry was standing with the guards at the door, but the other six guys were gone. Larry’s eyes were as big a saucers and he was grinning from ear to ear, and he said, “Suzy, you’re going to hate me.” I said “Why?” He said, “Because I just shook hands with our new Secretary of State and her husband!”

Yes folks, that’s right. Those six guys were all Secret Service and they were waiting for Bill and Hillary who were up in Hillary’s Senate office while Hillary was being sworn in. When they got off the elevator, they came over to the guys and thanked each of them and shook their hands, and Larry just got in line with them and shook Bill’s hand saying “Mister President” and shook Hillary’s hand saying “Congratulations Madam Secretary” and then out the door they went! And then down the hall I came! And I missed it! I can’t believe I missed it!

Well, that’s pretty much it folks – our trip home was long, but uneventful. We got back late Thursday night and picked Sophie up yesterday morning. So now we are all together again, and all of us seem to be just a bit worn out – but happy!

It truly was ‘A Moment That Will Define a Generation’ – but more than that, we believe it was a moment to give us hope, a moment to inspire all of us to work with, not against, one another to help this president and to help ourselves.

This really is a great nation, and we feel proud and thankful to be part of it. Let’s all go out there and do a little something for someone else, and try to make this an even better place to be. President Barack Obama will need all our prayers, all our good thoughts, and all the help we can be to make this a better world for our children and our grandchildren. Let’s do all we can!