Eyewitness to history: Local residents travel to D.C. for Obama inauguralDavid and Brenda Velde were among the more than 1 million Americans who descended upon D.C. Tuesday to witness first-hand the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
David and Brenda Velde got up and out the door by 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Eastern Standard Time.
They had an important appointment later that day, and they didn’t want to be late.
Having already flown halfway across the country for it, the Lake Carlos residents left their Arlington, Virginia hotel that morning and hopped into a van that would take them the rest of the way to their destination – Washington, D.C.
They arrived a little before 7 a.m.
“So, it took an hour-and-a-half to go eight miles,” David Velde said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
As it turns out, the Veldes weren’t the only ones interested in visiting the nation’s capital on Tuesday.
David and Brenda Velde were among the more than 1 million Americans who descended upon D.C. that day to witness first-hand the inauguration of our nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.
“It was amazing,” David said of the feeling he got while watching Obama take the oath of office, swearing in on the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln during his inauguration.
The Veldes said they were probably one-fifth of a mile away from the main stage during the ceremony.
“It’d be maybe a three-wood and a seven-iron [golf clubs],” David joked about the distance – about 350 yards.
With crowds blanketing the entire National Mall, he said, many people were even farther away.
Having traveled to D.C. numerous times before, David said he had never seen the city so filled with people.
“It was very crowded,” he said. “All the time.”
There were lines everywhere, David said, and getting a taxi-cab was almost impossible.
Traffic was so congested, it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway, he added.
“The recommendation there was that if you were within two miles of the Capitol, that you should walk and not use the Metro [subway system],” David said, “because it would be packed.
“And it was.”
In 1993, the Veldes attended Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, David said, which at the time they considered a huge event.
Obama’s was much bigger.
“[Clinton’s inauguration] was certainly exciting because it was our first experience,” David said, “But it pales in comparison to what we saw [Tuesday].”
The Veldes said that once they arrived at their designated area to view the inauguration, they felt engulfed in the massive crowd.
They were so completely surrounded that they essentially couldn’t move for nearly three hours.
“It was standing room only,” David said. “If you had a sense of your own space you had to lose it there and just accept that there were going to be people all around you.”
Still, he said, being able to be there in-person, and to hear first-hand Obama’s inaugural address, made it all worthwhile.
“It was quite a rush,” David said. “You sort of fed off the enthusiasm that others had around you.”