cop for a day, pride & frozen fingers: an inauguration recap

23 Jan

If you were in the nation’s capitol on Inauguration Day you probably saw, amidst the crowds, the police and the secret service, a whole slew of National Guard Soldiers working at various places around the city to keep you safe and assist in keeping the peace should anything go wrong. Lucky girl that I am, I was one of them.

On Saturday, the husband and I woke up at about 5:30 AM to drive to the middle of nowhere Virginia (Blackstone) to Fort Pickett in order to link up with the Virginia National Guard unit we were attaching to for the Inauguration. Since we’re public affairs Soldiers, we gave a briefing on how to effectively interact with the media. Basically, we told the Soldiers to talk about what they know, be respectful to all media personnel, and never, ever say “no comment.” We had a whole bunch of other stuff to do, like discuss what the hell we were going to do, make sure we had packed enough cold weather gear to survive a 14-hour day in the cold and eat dinner. We ended up driving back home that night, which meant our day didn’t end until about 11:30 PM.

Sunday we woke up at 6:30, took a shower that we feared would be our last for too many days, double and triple checked we had packed everything, picked up our boss and headed up to DC. Traffic was surprisingly light and after about eight stops at various locations, we made it to the DC National Guard Armory. We got inprocessed, which really just consisted of handing someone a folder and then, because we are awesome and because everyone was totally expecting there to be 378 bazillion people crowding the streets of DC on Inauguration Day, we got sworn in as special police by the DC Metro cops. That’s right, we were cops. For a day. It’s possible that, given the title of “Special Police,” we pulled a few not entirely legal u-turns and maybe, just maybe, we went down a one-way street. But come on! You would too. Don’t lie.

After heading to totally unmarked Smithsonian warehouse in Maryland where they keep super cool stuff that we weren’t allowed to see, we set up our cots and what we dubbed as the “Public Affairs Command Post” and attempted to figure out what the hell was going on. This whole inauguration thing was a HUGE MASSIVE GINORMOUS mission and with National Guard Soldiers from damn near every single state, police from all over the place and Secret Service and emergency response personnel and so on and so forth, it was a little difficult to get things straight. We did a recon on where we would be positioned and further discussed our plans for Inauguration Day. We tried to go to sleep at like 7 PM but these dicks from West Virginia would not SHUT UP and kept us up until much later than we had originally planned.

And then – drum roll please – Inauguration Day.

We woke up at 3 AM. Which is, you know, stupid early. Plus, the temp was in the teens and that whole getting out of your cozy bed cot and going outside thing kinda sucked. A lot. But still, I woke up excited.

In the planning process, the husband and I decided we would attach ourselves to the group of Soldiers who would be responsible for manning checkpoint #10, located on 12th street between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues. It was one of the points for spectators to enter Pennsylvania Avenue for viewing of the Inaugural Parade.

By the time 4 AM rolled around, we had our vehicles turned on and warming up and by 4:15 AM, we were loaded into the vehicles and on the road. And then the fun started. Due to a minor misstep on levels way above ours, we weren’t given the proper placards necessary for parking in the places we were supposed to park so we ended up driving all around DC, on Inauguration Day before the bars had even closed (because they kept them open to 5 AM), driving down one way streets and cursing a lot until finally, we asked the cops if we could park in their parking lot about a mile and half from where we were supposed to be.

Then…we walked. For a mile and half. Carrying all sorts of gear, at an infantry pace, through crowds so thick we had to hold onto each other in order to make it through. BUT, those crowds were glad to see us. Believe me when I say there is no better feeling than being welcomed to DC with cheers, high fives, gratitude and a crowd of thousands chanting “U-S-A” just because you showed up. And then, you add in that I was the only female in a group of about 30 males which resulted in shouts of “Girl Power!” and “You Go Girl” from fellow American women and suddenly you’ve got a massive smile on your face and you realize that regardless of the stress, the long days, the lack of showers, the sleeping in a warehouse with 500 guys, and you remember that pride is worth absolutely everything. Nothing beats knowing that your service is appreciated, that America supports and loves its troops.

Once we got to our point, we got to run inside to warm up and stash our gear before the gates opened. At the time, I felt like it was the calm before the storm, but the crowds were not nearly as intense as we had expected along the parade route and despite a morning rush of a few thousand entering onto Pennsylvania Avenue, it was a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. I ran around taking video of Virginia National Guard Soldiers, attempted to help people find their way around DC, attempted to figure out what the hell was going on with the metro and froze my ass off. It was cold. Very cold. It was 14 hours of cold. Freezing cold. We were lucky enough to be able to go inside and warm up and I mean it when I say it was fun. Exhausting, but fun. We watched part of the parade, and Obama broke my little heart when he got back into his limo just before I could capture him on video. The husband and I were bummed, but we still got to see him waving from the window of the limo. We blame Michelle because did you see those shoes? They must have hurt. And it was cold. Very cold. Did I mention that?

After the gates were opened for everyone to exit, we were released by the Secret Service we marched back across DC to our vehicles, exhausted and sore, made it back to our sneaky Smithsonian warehouse, talked shop for a bit, got in a fight about Wendy’s and passed the hell out.

All in all, it was great. I’m glad I got to experience it but ultimately if I could watch the next inauguration curled up in a blanket on my couch, I’d be ever so thankful.

Also – holy crap! Obama is our president! How AWESOME is that?!


9 Responses to “cop for a day, pride & frozen fingers: an inauguration recap”

  1. Holly January 23, 2009 at 11:12 AM #

    What a great story, from a very unique perspective. Girl power is right!


  2. Margaret January 23, 2009 at 2:26 PM #

    Grateful for your service.

  3. anOCgirl January 26, 2009 at 10:04 AM #

    holy crap. what a day. while walking to and from the inauguration, i saw lots of military peeps and they were all so pleasant! i didn’t see any girls tho or else i would’ve channeled my inner spice girl to yell ‘girl power’ too!

  4. andrew January 26, 2009 at 10:30 AM #

    You left out the part about the 0430 nudity? That was the best part!

  5. kirby February 6, 2009 at 6:05 AM #

    I watched the inauguration on the teevee… because for some stupid reason I woke up after having fallen asleep with the teevee on and Mr Obama was taking the oath.
    I remember watching it thinking “oh hey.. terra is there”, and then wondering if you got to do something cool like this.

  6. Mermanda February 6, 2009 at 3:49 PM #

    Wow. That’s so awesome that you got to be such a big part of the historic day.

  7. titus2woman February 24, 2009 at 9:50 AM #

    This made me cry. WAY cool. (((((HUGS))))) sandi


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