The official blog of the 2009 inauguration in Washington DC through the eyes of Andrew Spear, Kristin Majcher, and Johnny Simon. 

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Sunday, January 18, 2009


These guys were at the Washington Monument during the concert to keep everyone safe. One guy's eye was on the sniper scope the whole time.

Snipers on the roof just outside of the mall.

More Obamaphoria


So today there were tons more people at the National Mall than yesterday, and I can only imagine what it's going to be like by Tuesday. Estimates say that over 300,000 people showed up, and this could mean that more than the projected 2 million will show up for the inauguration day itself. At this level there would be about 400 porta-potties per person. Let's just hope that's enough to keep everyone satisfied.

Yesterday the temperature didn't even get out of the teens, but today it was almost 40 degrees. People didn't seem to mind the cold, and if anything, used it as a way to show off their new Obama hats and scarves at the kick-off event for the Today was the big "We are One" concert outside of the Lincoln Memorial, with the likes of U2, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé singing songs inspired by our country. It was really cool to hear Springsteen joined the 89-year-old Pete Seeger in a rendition of "This Land is Your Land" with a gospel choir backing them. Obama addressed the crowd briefly, reassuring them that despite the economic turmoil the country is experiencing now will eventually be lifted, even if it does take a while.

Even on the other side of the Washington Monument where there was only a faint hint of sound from the concert, people were still crowded together, dancing and singing along. People watched Obama on Jumbo Trons out on the lawn, and even if they couldn't see the action up close (most couldn't) they were still rocking out. We've seen pick-up soccer games and runners going about their business as usual, mixed in with the news outlets setting up their makeshift studios and carving out their turf. Basically, this is a circus. But it's really kind of refreshing, to see the media interacting with REAL people in the same space. Maybe it could happen more often? At any rate, I got the chance to see women flinging themselves at Anderson Cooper next to a homeless man leaning on his shopping cart, which I'm sure never made it on CNN.

Although there are a lot of people who are unsure of whether or not Obama will bring about change, almost nobody that we've seen in the capitol has outwardly expressed opposition to the new administration. This is a stark contrast from the Counter Inauguration of 2005, when Bush was starting his second term. The only people that we have seen who were doing any sort of protest were some guys on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue somewhere, with big signs that said "Homo Love is Sin" and "Trust Jesus." But people seemed to be more drawn to the tent of Obama merchandise than trying to heckle the protesters, who really didn't have anything interesting to say anyway.

Although there are no big protests or anything going on (yet, anyway) there is still a pretty big police presence in general. But maybe that's just because we're in D.C., and there's kind of a lot of important things to protect here. Seeing snipers on the top of buildings is kind of surreal but for the people here, it's probably second-nature.
So what are people saying about Obama? I've overheard:

"He's the light at the end of the tunnel"
"To see this is such a privilege"
'He's MY president"
"I wouldn't be standing here out in the cold if it weren't for Barack Obama"
"If you can pay five dollars for a footlong, you can pay five dollars for an Obama pin"
"I love everything about him"

You get the picture.

After the festivities everyone scattered to go home, clogging up the subways. I'm sure the people trying to beat crowds by walking down the upwards escalators is only a hint of what's to come on the public transit system in the next few days, which up until now have been relatively quiet.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we'll be out reporting even more. Hopefully then I'll be a bit less tired. More tomorrow.

--- Kristin


Hey guys! Andy & I got here on Friday night, and spent all of yesterday taking in the sights. For both of us, it's our first time in Washington, and it's kind of surreal to see the nation's capitol for the first time - during the busiest event of the year. Obama fever has invaded the city, and everyone is really excited about our new president.

One indicator of this is all of the Obama merchandise that vendors around the city are selling at their stands all around the city. Yesterday we went to the northeast quadrant to check out the Florida Ave. shops and the Funky Flea Market, a makeshift flea market set up in the Gallaudet University parking lot on weekends. Among all of the goods that people were selling, Obama merchandise was definitely the most prominent - Obama's face was on every type of commodity available. We saw the usual apparel, like fake rhinestone-encrusted shirts and baseball caps, and then a few weirder things, too - a perfume with Obama family packaging, Obama belts, Obama hats, Obama scarves and even Obama earrings.

The only other place that I have encountered this much stuff with someone's face on it was during a trip to Rome. Outside the Vatican, there was no shortage of collectibles with the Pope on them, and to be honest, it's a weirdly similar ordeal here. Now don't get me wrong - I voted for Obama and everything, but it's just kind of weird to see merchandise usually reserved for sporting events or concerts being swiped up by huge crowds at the National Mall. If anything, it's just really strange to see a country that has spent years loathing the past president moving toward a mentality of extreme acceptance of a new one. Or maybe it's not strange at all, and I should lighten up. But no matter how you slice it, people here in Washington are definitely excited for what's to come.

And something else that's sort of strange is how advertisers have been taking elements from Obama's campaign to better their own. For example, in the subway, there's tons of Pepsi ads that look like ads for Obama from far away - until you realize that the "O" in 'HOPE" is actually filled in with the soft drink company's logo. And Ikea has started telling people that 2009 really is a time for change - a time to change your home's interior decoration. Now, this is kind of weird to me, but nobody else seems to think so. It's just another symptom of Obama fever, I guess.

My first impression of Washington is that it does a good job of showing extremes - by day, I watched black limos with important people in them speeding downtown, and by night, off the beaten path a bit, I watched a guy on the street try to break into cars by throwing bricks at them. But overall, this is a really cool place.

More updates later.

Photo by Kristin Majcher

Photo by Kristin Majcher

Coming Home

Hi, I'm Johnny. One of two photographers heading down to D.C. for this melee of tradition. This is going to be an interesting trip for me, mainly because its also a trip home. I've lived (excluding college obviously) in the Washington D.C. area all my life, and I'd thought I'd share some facts about the city, and why this election means so much to the residents.

A quick primer:

Population: Roughly 591,000 residents. That's just a few thousand shy of Boston, but 150,000 less than Columbus. The metro area boasts more than 5 million. D.C. is one of the nation's leaders in traffic congestion as many people who work in the city commute from Maryland or Virginia.

Mayor: Adrian Fenty has been in office for two years, preceded Anthony Williams who in turn was preceded by notorious mayor Marion Barry. Fenty, once in office, hired Michael Rhee to the post of "School Chancellor" to take control of the district's troubled school system.

Demographics: 55.6% Black, 36.3% White. Obama won here with 90% of the vote. Kerry captured 85%. Either way, the end of the Bush Administration and the ushering in of the first black president holds a special place for Washingtonians. On an ethnic level, sure. But on ideology and politics, lets just say that Bush wasn't the most welcome here and it seems Obama has been greeted in open arms.

Representation: None! A common misconception about the district is that it has a voice in Congress. Thats a half truth. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's only voice in Congress, is allowed to vote in commitees but is completely barred from vote on the floor of the House of Represenatives. Which means in turn Washington D.C., a city bigger in population than Wyoming, is put on equal ground legislativly with Puerto Rico, Samoa, and Guam. There have been debates going on for years bringing up the idea of D.C. voting rights or even statehood, but none of them have successfully passed through the legislative branch. It seems that Obama will be supportive of such a measure, but with all the problems on his plate, I doubt we will such much happening with this issue for awhile.

So there are some quick facts. I hope they help put this inauguration in context to what it means locally (they do foot the bill for the Inauguration by the way). I'm leaving town in a few hours, and I can't wait to start sending images from whatever's happening down here.

Andrew Spear

Andrew Spear
Andrew Spear is a Midwest-based photographer currently studying photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication. A junior in the program, Andrew is also a staff photographer at The Athens NEWS, in Athens, Ohio. He splits his time between Athens and Cleveland, his hometown. Please click the image to view Andrew's portfolio. (Photo courtesy of Matt Eich)

Kristin Majcher

Kristin Majcher
Kristin Majcher is a junior studying magazine journalism at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Communication. Currently a staff writer at The Athens NEWS, she has also worked with The Post (Athens, Ohio) and Cleveland Magazine. She splits her time between Athens and her hometown of Cleveland.

Johnny Simon

Johnny Simon
Johnny Simon is a Midwest-based photographer currently enrolled as a senior photojournalism major at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. His work has been regcognized by the Southern Short Course in News Photography, NoTxt Magazine, the Corcoran Gallery FOCUS on Photojournalism and his adoring parents. Please click the image to see Johnny's portfolio.
All content © 2009 Andrew Spear, Kristin Majcher, Johnny Simon, and The Athens NEWS.

No reproduction without permission of the authors under penalty of law.