Gala time! We attend a gala hosted by the Asia Society at the St. Regis Hotel. We huddle in the lobby waiting for a parade of who's who to walk by so we can take a photo and grab a quote. We are lucky! We meet Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, who greets us with kisses on our cheeks and a small hug.
Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, also made a brief appearance at the Asia Society Gala.
January 18, Sunday: Kickoff
Braving the cold and the large crowds, we head to the Lincoln Memorial for the inaugural kickoff. We get inside the checkpoint after
having our bags and jackets searched, only to be pinned against a row
of porta-potties that lined the entire area of the Lincoln Memorial.
People climbed up into the trees and onto the portable toilets to get a better view. It got ugly when some -- miffed that the climbers were blocking views of a TV screen -- chanted for those sitting on top of the potties to fall in.
When the kickoff began, people cheered, especially when Denzel Washington came on. He looked good, but you knew that, right?
January 19, Monday: Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala
From left to right: Top Row: Norman Mineta, General Shinseki, Second Row: Kal Penn, Charice Pempengo.
We attend the Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala where special appearances were made by Kal Penn, General Shinseki of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Energy-Designate Steven Chu, Former Secretary
Norman Y. Mineta, and Maya Soetero-Ng.
Charice Pempengo, a 15-year-old singing sensation currently working with Clive Davis, wowed the crowd with her vocals by singing “God Bless America” and “One Moment in Time.” We screamed and wept.
But the night is young. Next, we're off to Bohemians Caverns, a local jazz club, for Wonder-Full, an evening of nothing but Stevie Wonder songs. The crowd added Obama’s name to every song it
could. We dance the night into the morning, lasting until around 3 am.
January 20, Tuesday: Inauguration Hell Twin Stories
The original plan was to not sleep, then head over to the Mall at around 4 am. Well, at 4 am we decided to take a short nap. We awoke around 5:15 and headed our separate ways.
I headed to the Metro stop at 7 am. The entire platform was packed. Each train that stopped our way was packed to the hilt. After the fifth or sixth train passed us, we crossed over to the other side to ride toward the opposite way in the hopes of getting to our destination.
We ended up stuck in the tunnel for two hours. Someone had apparently been hit by a train (no death), and the cars ahead of us were lagging behind.
When we finally got off our stop, we walked for another 45 minutes to the Lincoln Memorial to avoid getting stuck. But when we got the Washington Monument, barricades prevented us from getting closer. We camped near a jumbo TV screen right next to the monument.
When the ceremony began, some people booed as the camera showed Bush. Mostly the crowd chanted, “Obama! Obama!” “It’s a new day!” and there were a lot of tears after Obama was sworn in.
Kai, on the other hand, became one of the thousand traumatized survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom.
I woke up at 5 am after an hour of sleep. At dawn, people were already packed in the subways like sardines. From 7 am to noon, I waited in line to get into the swearing-in ceremony. The line didn’t move. In fact, there wasn’t even a line -- just a mob of ticket-holders who got increasingly frustrated and hostile as the hours went on. One woman fainted. Another woman -- her water broke!
I never made it in. When I reunited with Angela in the afternoon, I cried for six seconds. Then, got over it.
January 21, Wednesday: Getting out of DC
Exhausted from the inauguration, we did not even make it to another gala and to our Chinatown bus that was headed back to Philly. We instead rented a car and drove up the next morning -- passing Baltimore (Kai’s birthplace!) to Philly (Angela’s birthplace!) to board a plane back to sunny Los Angeles.
Angela Chung is a writer in Los Angeles whose day job is as a public defender.