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Memories to Last a Lifetime

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The sky was still dark; there was no hint of light on the horizon. The hotel was quiet but others joined us as we rushed down the hall to the metro. When the platform came into view, we could see hundreds of people who were already waiting for the train. Breezing past the folks who had to stop to purchase tickets, we counted down the two minutes until the train arrived. One minute. We found the nearest open door, and boarded the metro. It was just 4:00 AM, but people were packed in like sardines. After switching to the blue line so that we could get closer to the Mall faster, we exited the train at L'Enfant Plaza. Following the crowds, we made our way past lines of busses full of police and army reserves who had staked their claims much earlier than we.
Overwhelmed by the crowds, I looked at the ground. It changed from asphalt to gravel and then finally grass. I knew we were there. I looked up to hear my sister shout 'I told you so' to my dad. She lamented, 'We should have gotten up earlier.' Mimicking a line from a book we recently read with my mom, my mom said, 'It's all good.' And, it was.
We found a great spot near the first non-ticketed JumboTron. We staked out a spot and laid down a few blankets before I looked around. The Capitol was brilliant, shining in the night sky. Everyone was happy, carrying huge smiles on their faces despite the fact that it was only 4:30 AM.
I turned to the people behind me and introduced myself to a family from Maryland and a teacher from Texas. It was something I don't ordinarily do, but it felt right. On my left, there were hundreds of green and blue Porta Potties. On my right, there were soon thousands of people. Careful, so as not to move the cold that seemed trapped in my coat, I sat down. It was frigid. The wind whipped around us and I eagerly awaited sunrise. I looked around and felt shear pride in being on the National Mall to witness history. Just 8 hours to go and my country, our country, would have a black president!
Some college students came and staked out a spot on the only empty 2 square feet of ground near us. They offered to take our picture, and my mom obliged, saying through chattering teeth, 'That would be nice.' As I smiled, I felt icicles forming on my braces. Someone asked, 'How many more hours.' Too cold to open my mouth and let the wind in, I mumbled under my breath, 'Six more to go.' The sun hadn't risen yet but there were probably a million people on the Mall. Leaning close, I whispered to my mom, 'Can't believe this is happening.'
The next thing I knew, my sister coaxed me into venturing over the Porta Potties with her. While waiting in line, I jumped around to wake my toes. 'I would go in another one sweetheart,' an old lady said as she came out. I looked around, but there was no choice. I had been waiting in the line for that toilet and I couldn't exactly jump over to another line so I took a deep breath and took care of business as fast as possible. Rather than returning quickly to our spot, we ventured out into the crowds and heard cheers erupting. We investigated and found a crowd camera hovering above. We took some photos and returned to our home on the Mall.
Soon, I heard music from Sunday's concert and everyone started to sing. My mom tapped my shoulder and handed me a flag that she had gotten from a volunteer. When the last song from the concert played on the JumboTron, people chanted 'OBAMA, OBAMA.'
When the music started again, it was an orchestra with children singing. We watched eagerly as Oprah, Shakira, and Senator Kennedy found their seats in front of millions. In the distance, sirens blasted, 'WEEEAR, WEEAR, WEEEAR.' It was Obama making his way to the Capitol. Malia and Sasha were introduced to a sea of patriotic flags. After waiting through the introductions of former presidents and vice presidents, the announcer finally said, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, President Elect Barack Obama and George Bush.' The Mall was an ocean of people swathed in red, white, and blue. After Biden was sworn in, the crowd erupted again. I watched anxiously as Barack Hussein Obama repeated the oath from the Chief Justice. I held my flag up high and smiled. The old black woman behind me said, 'We did it. I can't believe this moment is here.' I was thinking the same thing.





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