January 20 is my brother’s birthday. It also happens to be Inauguration Day, so it is easy for me to remember both. Generally, it is a time of celebration. Tomorrow will be unique, already altered by COVID-19, and now changed further due to the insurrection and threats of violence. It pains me to think about those changes.
In early 2013, Jamie and I were still living in New Mexico. We had not yet made plans to move back to the Northwest. One of the things about living in a small state is that things are possible that may seem out of reach in other areas. One of those is tickets to the Inauguration. Each member of Congress is given a certain number of tickets to distribute. Many are given to donors. That year was Obama’s second inauguration and our congressman had a free lottery for his constituents, so I entered. I thought: why not? The day of the lottery in December came and went with no word. I was not surprised that we hadn’t won. I was surprised, though, less than a week before the inauguration, when my cell phone rang while I was at work. I checked the message from Ben Ray Lujan’s office saying they had 2 extra tickets because the winners couldn’t use them and did I want them? They needed to know within an hour so they could offer them to the next on the list. Within 30 minutes, I had confirmed with Jamie and the congressman’s office, found affordable airfare for Jamie, changed my flights from my research meeting in San Francisco to return to DC instead of Santa Fe, found housing with our friends in the area. How could we not go? We felt so lucky to have the opportunity.
And what an opportunity it was. I will never forget that day. Our friend gave us a ride to the Metro. We dressed warmly and we walked and walked, going through security first, and then a complex mess of knowing where to go. Definitely the largest crowd I have been in. We were relatively close to the Capitol but still so far away. The energy was electric. The crowds were excited and joyful. We fell in with a group of African American activists from Akron, Ohio. They were glowing with pride and we were too.
Photo: Betsy Brown
To have seen the images of the storming of the Capitol on January 6 is heart wrenching, especially seeing my photo above and remembering the peaceful and respectful crowd we were with. The hope then was still palpable, especially from the older citizens.
The flags that have been placed now on the mall are a fitting tribute to each state and the 400,000 lives lost to COVID-19. The flags represent the people, us, who are citizens and deserve the best lives we can live. Unique in America is this transition of power. We came so close to losing it two weeks ago, but tomorrow we celebrate before we get back to the work of saving it and ourselves.
And work we do have. We have vaccines to roll out, lies and deception to expose, and ourselves to keep safe for a little while longer from this coronavirus. It has now been in Washington State for a year. It landed here first and we have done better than most at keeping it at bay. We did it with masks, distancing, and respect for each other, along with thoughtful and caring leaders. Let’s remember that those measures work. Here is a toast to what we have done and for a new beginning to Make America Kind Again.
Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and toast our new President and Vice President!
And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.