Historic Inauguration: Our Guy on the Scene in D.C.
One second you're at a meeting in Pinehurst, and the next you're a part of history.
That sums up my last 48 hours.
Around 2 p.m. on Thursday, I arrive back at The Pilot newsroom after attending a Pinehurst Comprehensive Long-Range Plan Steering Committee meeting. I'm expecting another typical afternoon, followed by another typical Friday, followed by another typical weekend. Maybe watch a little football, maybe take a nap. Who knows?
As you're about to see, plans change quickly in this business.
My boss, Pilot Editor Steve Bouser, sits down next to my desk without saying anything for a couple of seconds. For a moment, I think he's going to tell me I'm fired.
"I'd like to have you go to the Inauguration," he finally says. "Do you have a friend in Washington you could stay with?"
Like the political dork that I am, almost throw myself into Steve's arms. But I keep my cool and calmly reply, "Sure. I'll go." Click here for updates from Krahnert.
Fortunately, I have a good friend in the D.C. area who graciously says he'll allow me to stay at his apartment. If that hadn't worked out, there's a good chance I'd have been sleeping on the White House lawn.
We kick around some ideas about what my coverage would look like. Steve says he wants me to get an interview with Obama, but I think he's kidding. It's too late to get media credentials, so we decide that I'll write a couple of first-person accounts of what it's like to be up here for such a historic event. I'll also do some stuff for the Web site, thepilot.com, and take some pictures. Awesome.
Publisher David Woronoff gives me some walking-around money. At first we think I'll leave Monday, then Sunday, then maybe Saturday if I feel like it.
Next thing I know, it's Friday evening and I'm bobbing and weaving through rush hour traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia. I feel the adrenaline rushing through my body as I pass the dozens of electronic roadsides that flash "DC Event Jan. 20."
On Tuesday, Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States. And even though I've been here for less than 24 hours, it's obvious that the Washington area is buzzing. Obama, Obama, Obama. On newspapers. On the Metro subway cars. Heck, even in the public bathrooms. You can't escape him. His face is everywhere.
My buddy and I grab a late dinner in Arlington on Friday. At the restaurant, posters of the president-elect are plastered all over the walls, featuring the slogan "Hope Has Arrived" -- a nod to Obama's political manifesto "The Audacity of Hope."
Even while I'm eating, an enormous banner featuring a smiling Obama standing in front of the Capitol haunts me from across the room. "Inauguration Party 2009," it reads.
I can't imagine Bill Clinton or George W. Bush generating this kind of excitement.
Over the next couple of days, millions will descend on the capital to celebrate the dawn of a new political era. I decide to descend upon the city Saturday morning just to check out what was going on.
I get an early start to my day and leave Arlington around 8. The second I walk outside, I'm greeted by the bitterly cold 11-degree weather, so I make a beeline to the nearby Metro station. About 25 minutes later, I arrive at the Capitol South station, which is right around the corner from where Obama will be taking the oath of office.
Despite the freezing temperatures, it's a brilliantly sunny day and the Capitol is in all of its glory. I cautiously walk around the perimeter of the building, hoping not to draw the suspicion of the Capitol Police officers cruising the area on their motorcycles.
I finally make it around to the western side of the building, where Obama will be giving his speech. A vast expanse of thousands of plastic folding chairs covers the front lawn of the Capital. Behind the president's podium hangs five giant American flags, each representing a different time in America's past.
I can't help but linger there for a few minutes and soak up the enormity of what is about to happen. To be honest, I'm spellbound.
As I stare at the Capitol, I imagine what it must have been like to stand in this spot and watch Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, and Reagan deliver their inaugural addresses. Then I realize that, like those who got to witness those moments, I too get to be a part of history. It's not just the cold that gives me a shiver.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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