I’ve never been good at Math, let alone with numbers. But I’ve always wanted a million dollars. I can imagine in my head what it would look like but I’ve never seen it with my own eyes, touching it with my own hands. They said the crowd expected at Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration was to be between 1 to 2 million people. Now, I lived to tell the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, where on any given day, between 1,500 to 3,500 people run with the bulls. But, a million to two million people? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
My alarm goes off at 4am. The first metro train has just left for downtown. They say it could take up to 2 hours to get in the city but it’s cold, dark, and early, so I’ll take my chances at going “later”, 5am. I head out the door, tired, hungry, and cold. I meet my friends at the Metro station, all bundled up like marshmallow men. We stuff our maps, phones, cameras, and emergency money into our pockets, along with our already frozen hands and board the train. Next stop: The Inauguration.
The trick was to find an entrance to the Mall that wasn’t a parade route. Volunteers, policeman, U.S. Marshalls, were all giving people different information about parade routes and entrances onto the Mall. After walking around for an hour and a half, nearly 30 blocks, we finally found an exit onto the Mall. With a jumbo-tron in sight, and the sun coming up on the horizon, our hope was still alive.
What I experienced next, cannot be easily put into words. Your papers and televisions will show you amazing photos of the day, that I wish I could have taken but my eyes have forever captured. I saw a sea of faces, races, and a mass of red, white and blue. They said the weather was frigid and windy, but I hardly noticed. The winter sun cast down its rays upon us, a nation, a mass of millions, in need of some warmth.
I waited for hours to hear our new President deliver a speech, that when he finished, I stood a little taller, my back and shoulders a little straighter, and my hand was firmly placed over my heart as I sang the National Anthem. I believe that hope can transform fears. Though I froze for hours, waited in the longest ungodly lines, starved, and walked miles, my heart and spirit were alive.
A number I could now wrap my mind around. I could reach out and touch it with my own hands. I could also reach out and touch the hope, the belief, the vision, and the excitement, of the people, my people, of the United States of America, that a new day had dawned.