Family feels excitement, optimism at ceremony

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Caroline McIntyre
For the Salisbury Post
WASHINGTON, D.C. ó “Do you need help tying your boots?” my husband Josh asked from across the hotel room. I looked up from the corner of the bed to see four pairs of eyes intently watch me attempt to cram a winter boot over my third layer of socks.
“No, I’ve got it. Just give me a minute,” I replied, frustrated that I had not gotten the first shower and that my husband, cousin-in-law, brother-in-law and his girlfriend were all waiting on me.
Although in a time crunch, the four hours of sleep I received the previous night and the knowledge of the windy, 20-degree weather outside did little to hasten me along. Our situation, however, encouraged me to move as fast as possible and prepare to enter a sea of thousands scurrying on the streets below. Barack Obama was about to be sworn-in as the 44th president of the United States, and we had seated tickets.
As the last of our party exited the revolving doors of the Holiday Inn, we were greeted by a 12-foot-high metal fence that extended along the street and around the next block. Sometime between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., the Capitol Hill Police had constructed a massive fence that blocked off a three-square-mile area around the National Mall.
I knew the work took place during this time because there were no barricades when we went to bed. On Monday night, we attended the North Carolina Society Ball, where members of the congressional delegation such as Sen. Kay Hagan, Rep. Howard Coble, Rep. Heath Shuler, and my father-in-law, Rep. Mike McIntyre, made appearances.
The disco and beach music band Liquid Pleasure entertained politicians, staffers and family alike, as the excitement of the following day mounted and literally extended into Tuesday, which was evidenced by our late bedtime.
It was a crowded affair on Monday, but nothing compared to the masses we were fighting our way through five hours before the inauguration. What normally would have been a short, half-mile walk turned into a 45-minute hike around the metal barricades to find our designated gate and wait in another line of thousands only to get to the security checkpoints.
Finally, after passing through metal detectors and showing our tickets and IDs no less than ten times, we reached our destination ó Yellow Section 11, only 60 yards away from the podium.
It did not strike me how fortunate we were until Josh and his brother began jumping up and down like little kids in a candy store. In the four presidential inaugurations since my father-in-law was elected to the U.S. House, these were the best visitor seats he had ever secured.
By the time we sat down, there was still an hour before the ceremony began, but it only felt like minutes passed because of all the excitement. A crowd gathered a few rows behind us to take pictures of singer Alicia Keys. Actor Val Kilmer had a posse following him in the aisle in front of our section, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg both turned around to wave to some friends.
Josh kept standing up to take pictures of the hundreds of thousands on the Mall and the presidential motorcade as it approached. We also repositioned a number of times so others could take pictures of our group.
Although I was emotionally piping with excitement, the chilly air began to take its toll. As the ceremony began, I had unconsciously positioned my legs beneath me, and I started to bounce up and down to keep my blood flowing. A friend a few rows back later told me I looked like a ocean buoy bobbing in the tide.
As Vice President Biden and President Obama were sworn in, I remained fairly stationary ó cheering ó but with hands tucked tightly in my jacket and warmers padding the inside of my mittens. The sound of a million and-a-half people echoing in approval after each oath of office was administered brought smiles to my face.
With all of the camera flashes and shutters around me, it was hard to pay attention to every word of the inaugural address. However, as he had done so many times during his campaign, our president proclaimed a promise to which I couldn’t help but respond. “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit … we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
In our nation’s wake of war, terrorism and a fumbling economy, I realized the chance to start anew and move forward begins with the ability to look past yesterday’s mistakes.
From my vantage point on the west lawn of Capitol Hill, something physically changed inside me, too. I slowly pulled my hands out of my jacket pocket, let the warmers fall to my wrists, and I clapped as loudly as my mittens would allow.
And whether it was through applause, a hug or a handshake, my fists were unclenched and my palms remained open the rest of the day.
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Carolina Gobble McIntyre, a graduate of Salisbury High and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the daughter of Ron and Beverly Gobble of Salisbury. She lives in Chapel Hill.