Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Face of a City

Just one year ago, D.C. was flooded by eager and excited Americans (and others, too, I suppose) ready to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. It was certainly an exciting time, but it was also one that many of us approached with great trepidation. Our city is not known for being well run (Marion Barry, anyone?), so as we prepared for the onslaught of the millions predicted, there was definitely a potentail disaster brewing.

For those of us who live here, it's hard enough to navigate the city during crowded summer months full of tourists, especially on narrow city sidewalks and Metro escalators during rush hour. What would happen when the eyes of the nation, maybe the world, were upon us? Could we handle the onslaught of millions of people? Would we perform, or end up with egg on our faces?

The weekend approached and the city filled, hotels full to capacity. What I remember from that weekend, and inauguration day in particular, was an electric excitement in the city. People were nicer to each other. They waited in long lines. They smiled. They talked to strangers. It wasn't out of the ordinary to sit in a bar or restaurant and strike up a conversation with the people sitting next to you. Civility reigned. It was a feeling that, if bottled, could solve some of the most contentious crises in the world.

And that potential nightmare? The D.C. police, the Feds, National Guard, and all the visiting police forces who lent a hand ran a well oiled machine (aside from a few glitches -- I have not forgotten tunnel where ticket holders were stuck). Not one person (out of more than a million)was arrested as they waited (many overnight) and watched the President get sworn in. When I heard that news, I remember being so proud of my city, my neighbors, my fellow Americans.

So as the rest of the country reflects on our President's first year in office, what I'm reflecting upon is how when it really mattered, when the world was watching, my fair city rose to the occasion and impressed us all. And maybe, just maybe, we can get that feeling back again sometime.

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