Hidden Treasures: The Press of an (Inaugural) Crowd

Joel Carillet's picture

Crowds, generally speaking, are not liked by Westerners.  We like our space, our privacy, a yard that will take six hours to mow.  And when we do gather in large groups, we maintain fairly large bubbles which others are expected not to invade.   


Joel Carillet

Walking through the Columbia Heights district of Washington DC, en route to the Mall


Joel Carillet - Obama INauguration

The crowd grows...


There are of course exceptions to this.  They include:  The Super Bowl, most rock concerts, parties in which people drink too much, and particular presidential inaugurations.  In all of these cases, the crowd is part of the experience.  It conducts energy, screams of life, roars and rocks as one.


Joel Carillet - Obama Inauguration

"From slavery to history"


Joel Carillet - Obama Inauguration

Streams of people enter the Mall


Joel Carillet - Obama Inauguration

An officer attempts to keep the crowd from climbing atop the World War II Memorial.  By the time the inaugural ceremony began, he had given up; the crowd won.

And so it was on January 20, 2009, on the National Mall in Washington DC.  It was a bitterly cold day in which people were so thoroughly bundled that at times they brought to mind a colony of stocky penguins that had strayed far from home.  As the crowd thickened and shivered, snot dripped from many a nose.  But nobody seemed to care.  This was because now was not a morning for self-consciousness; it was instead a morning for unrestrained celebration.  Whether one was here for the history or the hope (i.e., the first black president or a change in U.S. policy), one thing was clear: we were a lot of imperfect people who, in this moment, felt on the cusp of something significant, something that made us feel better about our corporate selves.  And in such an environment, snotty noses just didn’t matter.  All eyes were turned squarely to the east, to the U.S. Capitol building and those who had gathered on its stage.


Joel Carillet - Obama Inauguration

The crowd watches Obama's inaugural speech from the World War II Memorial on the Mall


Yes, it was good to be in the crowd this day—pressed together, united, an “us” instead of an “I”.


Joel Carillet, chief editor of wanderingeducators.com, is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tennessee. He is the author of 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia. To learn more about him, visit www.joelcarillet.com.    


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