Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I want to tell you about a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which I hope I won't experience only once. Yesterday I stood in the freezing cold for 5 hours with two million other people and had one of the happiest most positive days of my life. I have been in crowds before, we all have, but this was completely different. Though the subways were so packed you could hardly move, and the only toilets were port-a-johns, everyone was completely joyous. There was literally no anger, no resentment, no complaining, no whining. Just happiness, hopefulness, and the most positive kind of pride. On the subway we sang and joked and passed the time by naming all the fifty states and capitals, and by helping our neighbors name all the countries with four letters (apparently there are ten). When we exited the underground we were greeted with a sight I have never before seen: every street, block after block in every direction, was completely full of people walking toward the mall. It looked like some sort of apocalyptic movie (except everyone was happy!) When we got to the mall it was a sea of people as far as you could see. We wandered around for while, got a glimpse of the Capitol, then chose a spot near the Washington Monument and a jumbotron to camp out and wait. We had a picnic lunch and tootsie pops, and there was nothing to do but observe the scene. It was AMAZING! Black and white and Asian and gay and straight and young and old and women in fur coats and people wrapped in blankets, everyone was there to celebrate. People talked and made friends with the people standing next to them and shared food and were polite and thoughtful in a way that I have never seen in a large crowd. I have been trying to figure out exactly what made it so different. I think one thing is that everyone was there for the same reason. You know how you go to a festival or a concert and some people are there to listen to music, and some are there to dance, and some are there to eat, or drink, or find a date? Well yesterday every single person in that crowd was there to celebrate this historic moment. No one had any other agenda. We were all on the same page. It really felt like we were all connected by our humanity. Being in that crowd made you feel like you could do anything. It made you feel like America is still the best hope that the world has for peace and prosperity and good will toward all. It felt like you were a resident of a city where everyone was positive and energetic and confident of success all the time. It felt the way life should be. When President Obama finally spoke a hush fell over the crowd and two million faces were turned, quiet and focused for over 15 minutes. Later my children said they had no idea the speech was that long. Time stopped, and as corny as it sounds, we were one.