Through some luck I ended up with a ticket to the Blue Standing Area (mid-south Capitol lawn) of the Inauguration, and through even more luck I was able to get through security to see it. I had a bit of hike to get to that point:

I started out from Arlington at 7:30. The Metro station was closed and the nearby buses were headed to the north side of the mall. As the sun came up, it burned the dawn haze off the sky.

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I walked past Arlington National Cemetery and joined a growing stream of people crossing the Memorial Bridge, the only one open to Virginia pedestrians.

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Despite the rising sun, the Potomac was still ice; the other bridges were deserted.

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I turn south to Independence Avenue, off from the crowd headed to the mall. Every time I could see north I saw thousands of people headed east.

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Independence was nearly empty up until 14th St, and from then on every street was completely filled from edge-to-edge with people except where the police cleared gaps for cars.

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Can you tell what part of the previous picture is the line for the Blue Gate? Yeah, neither could anyone else. Most of this is. I saw at four blocks of line and over the next two hours I moved through three merges.

Finally the Blue Gate came into view. There were eight to ten magnetometers underneath the white tent, but to get there the crowd had to funnel through a five-foot wide chokepoint.

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It took me from 11 to 12 to cross the intersection and get to security. There was no crowd control, no plan, no queue, just a mob of increasingly frustrated people who were realizing they weren’t all going to get in by the time Obama was sworn in. There was shouting and chanting, then shoving and pressing.

Shortly after I got through, officials closed the Blue Gate and thousands were shut out (that last link will probably shut you out from the Post with a registration screen, sorry for the irony and terrible design).

I arrived just as Aretha Franklin sang.

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Then Biden was sworn in.

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I worked my way towards the center as a very fine quartet of musicians did the classical version of air guitar to a very poor piece of music.

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My view was partially obstructed by trees, but I was able to pick out Obama during his swearing-in. The crowd was energized, the noise from the mall was a constant dull roar; when he finished the crowd erupted.

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I didn’t hear much of his speech over the cheering, which redoubled itself anytime he paused for breath. The crowd was hugely upbeat and it was great to watch history happen firsthand.

As things wound down I was able to cross into other sections to get directly in front of the stands.

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The last cheer was for the departure of George Bush. There were also a whole lot of upraised middle fingers.

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People showed up over the course of eight hours, but all wanted to leave within the same few minutes. I can’t share any pictures of it, though, I ran out of battery power. The only thing I’ll mention is that there was a one-block line in front of each Metro entrance. I don’t mean that there was a line that stretched the length of a block, I mean that people completely filled the street for the length of a block in every direction from a Metro entrance. So I returned home the way I came.