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October 17, 2017

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Inaugural scenes you didn’t see on television


Alex Brandon / AP

Khongorzul Battsengel, left, and Ariunbolor Davaatsogt both from Mongolia, take a picture of themselves as they wait for President Barack Obama in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington. Thousands marched during the 57th Presidential Inauguration parade after the ceremonial swearing-in of Obama.

Monday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama — its pomp and circumstance, fanfare and tedium — were easily enjoyed by millions of viewers, thanks to nonstop television coverage.

The president reciting the oath of office, Beyonce singing the National Anthem, the first couple’s ride — and walk — down Pennsylvania Avenue, the inaugural parade passing in front of the White House and the evening’s gala ball were there for us all to enjoy.

But we can pretty much guarantee that TV didn’t bring you these scenes:

    • The Pedicab Operator

      Getting to an inauguration can be the hardest part: The Metro will take you only so far; then you’ve got to walk ... and walk ... and walk. Detours and barricades can add miles to a journey of just a couple of blocks — enough to tire out even the most able-bodied attendees.

      And that’s just what D.C.’s pedicab drivers are counting on.

      “You’ve got people from everywhere, and everywhere you go, somebody needs a ride,” said Kevin Bonner, a pedicab driver. Many decided to blow the extra $20 to give themselves a break.

      Cars couldn’t get anywhere close to downtown D.C. on Monday, but road restrictions didn’t apply to bicycles — making operators of the small bike-drawn carriages the only transportation option for walking-weary travelers.

      Bonner usually takes his pedicab out on the weekends and manages to pick up 10 or 12 rides a day. On Monday morning, he’d done that many in two hours.

      “And I came out kind of late, about 8 o’clock,” he admitted. Gates to the National Mall opened at about 7 a.m.; crowds streamed in and had to walk around to entrances farther back along the Mall until Obama spoke at noon.

    • The Self-Appointed Fire-Upper

      Roderick Beechum of Virginia is excited about this inauguration, and he wants you to be excited about it, too.

      Beechum wandered the area just outside the Mall armed with two white signs with red and blue writing. One read: “We got ur back Mr. President”; the other proclaimed: “MLK is smiling today.”

      “In my opinion, the last term was more like just a black historical moment, from slavery to history,” Beechum said. “This term, in my opinion, is more inclusive. I’m not saying that the last one was exclusive, but it was just history.

      “It was just smack-you-in-the-face history. This one’s a little lighter. I think you can even feel it in the air.”

      Beechum was doing his darnedest to fire up the throng around him. He handed off his signs, started Obama cheers and hugged and posed for pictures with the like-minded crowd. On his way out of the event, he was spotted with about 30 happy new friends who had all but taken over DAR Constitution Hall to pass around his signs and cheer for the president.

    • The Street Musicians

      It’s nearly impossible to escape the sound of piped-in marching band music on inauguration morning — unless you’re near a street musician who is drowning it out with some fresh beats.

      Saxophonist Tim Turner and street drummer Markiee Wright, a two-man team from Richmond, Va., call themselves the Buk-It-Hedz (pronounced “bucketheads,” a play on the fact that Wright plays the bucket drums).

      They come to D.C. to play every year, Turner said, but they never get quite so much attention — or as many patrons — on a regular weekend as they do during an inauguration.

      During a five-minute, syncopated rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Turner and Wright had a couple dozen people, from toddlers to silver-haired seniors, dancing and dropping dollars into their case.

      “This is probably where the most money is at this point in the world right now,” Turner said. “So we just keep playing.”

    • The Foreigners

      Media usually get seats close to the action on the inaugural stage. But this time, the Sun decided to hang back in the crowd with regular folks and see what they thought of the fete.

      Unfortunately, technical difficulties prevented that from happening when the giant screen and speakers set up for the last section of the mall began to short-circuit, rendering the songs out-of-tune and the speeches partially unintelligible.

      The 100,000 or so people crowded into the blocks around the Washington Monument were audibly perturbed, loudly booing at the screen as it scratched out the president’s oath of office and continued to falter through the start of his inaugural address.

      But most decided, having come this far, they would stick it out, speech or no speech, screen or no screen.

      Maisie Green had come from Canada, and her relatives from Germany, to see Obama inaugurated a second time.

      Green and her family were at Obama’s first inauguration four years ago — with much better seats.

      “At the last one, they were sitting right behind Oprah Winfrey,” said Darin Dieterich, who lives in Munich, Germany, but is originally from Reno.

      Green nodded as she straightened the American flag she had tucked behind her ear and adjusted the Canadian flag she had wrapped around her shoulders.

      They came back to relive the euphoria of the moment, Green said. Although the moment turned out to be more confusing than celebratory, she said she is still glad she came.

      “I’m disappointed (about the screen), but the spirit is still here,” she said. “It is still here, and he has done a phenomenal job, and that’s why we wanted to be here. So, we’re staying.”

    • The Out-of-Towners

      For Natasha Bennett and Kimberly Graham, coming to the inauguration was a last chance to be a part of what they think could be a fleeting moment of history.

      “We’re probably not going to vote another black man into office for a very long time,” said Bennett, who came from New York. “So I wanted my daughter to experience it, one time.

      Bennett and Graham voted for Obama in 2008 but didn’t attend the 2009 inauguration.

      They thought, with smaller crowds, they were sure to be able to see and hear the goings-on at the Mall, but it was not meant to be.

      If they’d arrived a half-hour earlier, Graham guessed, they would have been far enough forward on the Mall not to have had to deal with the problem.

      “We’re kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to the other side,” Graham said. “But you know, just to be down here and to be among everybody is what it’s about.”

    • The Hometown Crew

      Jane Irwin and Bob Romo used the excuse of their son’s college education to make the trip from Chicago this year and see the president they’d voted for twice.

      “We wanted to visit our son and experience it with him,” Irwin said.

      As Chicagoans, Irwin and Romo said they feel especially good about having come out to see Obama, whose political career started in the Windy City, in his inaugural glory.

      “We supported Obama, and we’re very happy that he’s got a second term,” Irwin said.

      They planned to scour the Internet on Monday afternoon to make sure they heard what the president had said.

      “It sounds like it’s a really good speech. And I wish I had a chance to hear it,” Irwin said.

    • The Twenty-Somethings From About Town

      Many D.C. residents decided to avoid the crowds and watch the inauguration in the warmth of their homes — after all, if you don’t have an official ticket, the view is much better on TV.

      But some decided to get closer to the action anyway.

      “In all honesty, I’m really excited to tell my grandkids about this, so it’s monumentous,” Meredith Zoltick said. “It’s a special event; being here is important to me.”

      Zoltick and her friends were among the attendees thwarted by a faulty screen — so they resolved to return to the warmth of someone’s house and watch it later Monday on YouTube.

      “I couldn’t be a part of it last time,” said Kristin Olson, a D.C. resident who moved from Ithaca, N.Y. “It’s important to me that I’m just physically here.”

      “I was here four years ago,” offered their friend Sean Steege.

      In 2009, he had been a holder of a purple ticket — the infamous colored credential whose bearers got stuck in an underground tunnel during the ceremony and missed the whole thing.

      “Luckily, we were in the back and we got out earlier than anyone else — so we went to a bar and were able to see the speech,” Steege said.

      The Mall, he informed his friends, was still the better place to be.

    • The Young Family

      For many attendees, Obama’s inaugurations have been a fulfillment of a lifelong, even generations-long dream. For others, it’s a chance to get the next generation to start dreaming.

      “This is a historical moment, and it’s also a very good civics lesson for my kids,” said Corina Gonzalez, a D.C. resident who brought her husband, Mark Pineda, and their three children — Olivia, 11; Sophia, 9; and Nicolas, 7 — to watch the inauguration.

      “I want them to be very involved in voting, in politics and in what’s going on in the country,” Gonzalez said. “We share (Obama’s) political views, but we want not only that but also to be a part of this history.”

      Gonzalez brought the youngsters to the celebration in 2009. When asked what they thought about Monday’s ceremony compared with the last, Olivia was quick to respond.

      “It’s warmer!” she said.

    • The Second Take

      Of many repeat attendees at this year’s inauguration, some reinvented their experience for the second time around.

      “I’m very very excited to be here,” said Lynette Lynn-Horton, who said she is a pastor at the People’s Hope church in Largo, Md.

      Four years ago, Lynn-Horton explained, she had played it safe, not wearing the mink coat she sported to the Mall this year in fear of being sprayed with paint by activists.

      She broke out her finest this year, and when a man in the crowd asked her to hold a sign and sing “One Nation Under A Groove” while he filmed her, she happily obliged.

      “It’s the energy here — when I saw (Obama’s) children come out, I cried. When his wife came out, I cried. When Joe Biden came out, I cried,” Lynn-Horton said. “Four years ago, this inauguration represented a possibility. This year, it represents, to me, greatness again.

      “And we really are one nation under a groove. Everybody is included.”

    • Team Nevada

      We checked in with Nevada’s delegation about Inauguration Day plans, and it seemed all were planning on being on the Mall for the ceremony (though a spokesman for Republican Rep. Mark Amodei did not respond to the Sun’s inquiry).

      The most noticeable member of the Nevada delegation was Sen. Harry Reid — who, because of his position as majority leader, escorted Biden and Obama onto the podium — sat in the special circle on the dais and toasted the president at his luncheon.

      “I’ve watched (Obama) face the most difficult challenges a person could face ... with brilliance, patience, courage, wisdom and kindness,” Reid said in his toast to the president, hoping for “four more successful years.”

      Another incident with Reid in the Capitol generated a little buzz among journalists. According to Politico, after Obama signed nomination papers Monday — one of his first acts after his inauguration — there was something of a kerfuffle over who would keep the pens he used.

      Reid picked one up, but Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quickly admonished him: “Harry, Harry, put down the pen.”

      “I can get you one, man,” Obama chimed in. He then pulled a pen from his pocket and gave it to Reid.

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