What did you miss by not being there?

For another time, after I thaw out, actual thoughts about the speech and other surprises. (Chief Justice Roberts's bobble of the oath; the incredible body-chemistry among the former presidents, with Bill Clinton embracing George H.W. Bush and then barely acknowledging Jimmy Carter as he passed by -- or so it looked on the Jumbotron; the inevitably forlorn sight of the presidential helicopter -- usually called Marine One, but maybe not in this case since it was carrying former President George W. Bush -- as it circled the Mall on the way out to Andrews Air Force Base for the trip home; the very strange stress patterns in parts of Pastor Rick Warren's invocation, especially involving the names of the Obama daughters; the fact that planes kept taking off from National Airport throughout the ceremonies; etc. )

For now, a few illustrations of what you would have seen if, along with me and my friends the Fabrikants and Schells, and a million or two other people, you were out among the masses on the Mall.

Inauguration Days seem always to be extremely cold. Just before Jimmy Carter's inauguration, I remember seeing National Guardsmen using jackhammers and flamethrowers to get ice sheets off the sidewalks. It was just above freezing today, and not too windy. But obviously it has been cold recently in DC:


Early word was to go easy on the hydration because of a potential Porta-Potty shortage. No problem! You could have guzzled gallons before showing up (shot below around 9:30am -- all those little blue and white structures are what you think they are).

Crowd listening to the speech, in front of the Washington Monument (click for detail). What you don't see in background of this shot is the planes taking off from National Airport.
Logistics better than expected getting into the event; surprisingly bad on the way out. A potentially nasty moment occurred here, with many tens of thousands of people pushing toward what they thought was an exit, but which was in fact barricaded on three sides. Crowd pressure has just pushed down one section of cyclone fence in the shot below. Hundreds of people storm through before very much non-amused policemen stop the flow and repair the fence. Then those who thought they'd reached freedom were trapped in a forbidden zone (where those buses are).
Part of the crowd whose body pressure was pushing toward that fence.

American ingenuity and spontaneous self-organization to solve the problem: some crowd members climbed on top of the Porta-Potties to see where the exit point was. It turned out to be many hundreds of yards away, but they steered their fellow citizens toward safety and redirected the crowd flow. (No policemen or other volunteers offering any guidance on where to head.) But the buoyant mood of the day prevailed and, apart from the one fence-breach, an amazingly harmonious event.

And finally: I give up.