Friday, February 27, 2009

Tales from the Inaugural Punchbowl: Caroline Mello

The campaign, election, and subsequent inauguration of Barack Obama moved many of us to tears. I watched the 44th President take oath on a 12 inch television screen mounted on the wall of my hotel room in Barcelona. Hearing the stories from friends who were at the historic event made me feel as though I was there. I have asked three friends if I could repost their stories here. This is the second in a 3-part installment called Tales from the Inaugural Punchbowl.

The following story comes from Caroline Mello- Caro is 25 and works for Planned Parenthood as an organizer in New York City. She worked heavily as a volunteer on the Obama campaign trail. The following was originally posted on her private blog.

I was there. I still can’t really put to words what an amazing experience it was to actually be there. I was resigned not to go, I knew the crowds would be beyond insane and I wasn’t interested in having to fight my way to stand on some random sidewalk. But, then somehow I got a ticket to the ceremony. And then I got a ticket to an inaugural ball so I actually got to be in the same room as POTUS. I knew then I couldn’t turn it down.

I got to DC early in the morning on the 20th, slept for a few brief hours on the couch of a friend of a friend and then woke up at 5 to make the trek to the Metro. I was prepared for huge Metro crowds and, at first, it didn’t really seem much worse than my daily commute on the extremely overcrowded Lexington Avenue subway. But, when I got to my stop it was clear I was wrong. There were people everywhere, so much that you couldn’t really move your arms because it was wall to wall people. I realized getting off the train that I could only expect things to get more crowded.

And, I was right. Even with tickets I stood in line for 3 hours, crammed by strangers. But, it was easily the weirdest crowd experience because everyone was so nice! Like, seriously when are folks ever happy when they are crammed by a bunch of strangers at 7am? But, it was Obama day and I don’t think that anything could have ruined our moods. It was great to talk to the people around me because everyone had their own story of how they got there and why they felt they needed to come. I think one of my favorite things about Obama is that so many people feel like they have a piece of his Presidency. It’s a beautiful thing to watch people believe again.

Once I was in the ceremony nothing else mattered. I was standing on the mall area, so about 1-2 city blocks away from the capital. So, I could see the capital, I could slightly make out the Obama’s but mostly I watched it on the jumbotan. I cried when Aretha sang and realized then just how cold it was because the tears literally froze on my face. I watched the whole thing and felt like I was holding my breath in absolute disbelief that this is actually happening. But, it did. Towards the end as Bush was leaving everyone starting chanting “nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey goooood bye!” which made me feel a little bit like I was at a sporting event but was still cool. And, when Bush’s helicopter flew away I looked around and everyone around me was flipping him off. Without talking about it. I think that pretty much sums up how we all felt about his Presidency.

After the ceremony I braved the crowds to try to get out, got a little lost, found a bar with some friends and then took a quick nap before getting dressed to go the ball. I went to the Western States inaugural ball where Marc Anthony performed. He sang beautifully, mostly in Spanish and for the last sang JLo joined him on the stage. It was pretty great although at the time I desperately wished I didn’t have a small white Jewish guy as my date and instead had a man I could salsa with. Sigh. But, easily the best part of the night was when Barack and Michelle spoke and danced. I sunk into the press section of the ball so I had a close view. And, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I still can’t stop smiling. It’s been three days and already he has closed down Gitmo and has reversed the Global Gag rule, something that will greatly improve reproductive health services for women everywhere. It’s a new day in America. I can’t wait to get to work.

I would love to hear your inauguration story- post a link, or share in the comments section.

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