Monday morning: the Delta shuttle to DC is disappointing. It’s only two-thirds full, and some of the passengers (to judge from their cell-phone conversations) are not going to the Inauguration.
I meet the rest of my family at National Airport, coming in from Atlanta. Their flight is more like what I’d been hoping for. I watch the passengers disembark; they are predominantly older African Americans, dressed up, and beaming. The Metro is also a scene of jubilation. I figure I have spent close to 7,000 hours on the Metro so far in my life. I have often seen it as crowded as this, but I have never seen it so jammed with rookies. No one knows where we are or what to do next. But the atmosphere is supportive, friendly, and patient.
There are almost two million extra people in town, yet right away we see Imani from my daughter’s former 3rd-grade class, and her Mom. This sets a pattern: during the rest of our visit, we meet about a dozen old friends and neighbors in the midst of the vast crowds.
Monday afternoon: At our neighborhood’s CVS drugstore, the manager is out in front of the cash registers, organizing customers into lines, offering to assist each one, and generally acting like a gracious host. He is an African American man of about 65. Of course, I don’t know his biography, but he reminds me of many lifelong DC residents I have met. I sense that this is his city, that this day is of enormous importance to him, and that he wants every last visitor to feel welcome. The City of Northern Hospitality and Southern Efficiency is turning into its very opposite.
Across the street from the house where we are staying, a small clutch of protesters holds signs identifying Barack Obama with the Beast of the Apocalypse. I consider reminding them to be nonviolent, and wish they were elsewhere.
At a party for one of the Campaign’s policy committees, the actor Forest Whittaker speaks, followed by the man nominated to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan. Donovan says that he was initially humbled and even overwhelmed by his appointment, but then he started to get a flood of emails offering help and helpful advice. He decided that he couldn’t do the job, but we could. This is very much in the spirit of the day.