Sunday, February 1, 2009

Did the Criminals Take the Day Off?

You can't help but be impressed by the sight of those millions of people gathered on the National Mall, stretching from Capitol Hill to, it seems, infinity. The blur of colors, points of light, shades and shadows will become an iconic image, I believe: symbolic of the joy, hope, belief--and let's face it relief that Dubya is gone--of a nation reborn.

On the ground, the feeling was electric. Whether moving or standing still, you were in what used to be considered someone else's personal space. You heard several references to packed sardines. On the Metro train, you were simply up against one another and daring anyone on the platform to try to squeeze in. That's how I finally got on the train, by squeezing in despite the protests of those already on the train: "There's no more room!" "Make room," I replied, as kindly as I could. "I've got to meet a couple of buses." (Of course, I was referring to the two busloads of passengers on their way from Frederick, Maryland to some parking real estate near the Mall.)

Although the train jolted us up against one another time and time again, nobody--I mean nobody--got ugly. Some people expressed their discomfort: "I got a bad back. My arm is tired." But everyone remained polite, chatty, and at times, downright joyous as one group broke into the "Obama" chant.

All along that 3 hour Metro experience (we arrived at about 6 a.m. and finally emerged from the underground just before 9, all this time with no cell phone service, mind you), and in the crush of people in the Metro station, and the crush in the streets --I never once felt afraid.

Fear Itself

Fear kept many from venturing
to DC on this day. Very early in this project, a partner backed out because, she said, she had a "bad feeling" about the trip. The news media chirped in: "4 to 5 Million People Expected"; "Is DC Ready for the Crowd?" "High Security: Expect to be Searched" "Not Enough Port-A-Potties." People who had lived in DC, and who currently live there, worried about DC's notorious C.R.I.M.E. victimizing the helpless crowd. There was the threat of a terrorist attack or terrible weather. "What would you do in a disaster, down there with all those people. Remember Katrina!" And toward the end, we had to look out for that "lone wolf" who could escape detection up to and even after blowing up a few hopeful families as they cheered "Obama!" into the chilly January air.

"You just can't trust people" is the message in all that fear mongering. But on the ground in DC, I felt I could trust people. I felt people were drawn to this place on this day for the same or similar reasons as I. I felt that the criminals, if they were there, were there for the same reason. If they were there, they were there to see Barack Hussein Obama become president. If they were there, they blended in. If they were there, they must have taken the day off. Have you heard any reports of criminal activity in and around the Capitol on January 20, 2009?

Not only did the criminals behave themselves, but everyday people from all over the country and the world--we all just got along.


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