Summary List PlacementA beat after ending up being the United States’ 46 th president, Joe Biden stood in the shadow of the United States Capitol and declared success on behalf of Americans. All of them.
” We have actually learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is vulnerable,” Biden said. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”.
If so, democracy sure as hell earned the minute. Life this month in Washington, DC, has felt equal parts chaotic, anarchic, and authoritarian..
It started with President Donald Trump still spewing lies and refusing to accept the outcome of a free and fair election he lost..
It metastasized into Trump rallying thousands of supporters who felt sufficiently motivated to immediately introduce a deadly attack on the United States Capitol..
It escalated when 25,000 military soldiers descended on the country’s capital.
And everything caused Trump, facing a Senate impeachment trial for prompting an insurrection and all manner of legal peril, bucking more than 150 years of precedent and declining to go to the tranquil transfer of power in between himself and his successor.
All while more than 400,000 Americans are now dead because of a COVID-19 pandemic the country can’t yet control.
As a reporter designated to cover Biden’s inauguration event, the brief and unstable path to a literal front-row seat to history provided a poignant and personal metaphor– one both of worry and of hope.
Friday, January 15: ‘Go get ’em!’.
Inauguration organizers at the US Capitol confirmed to Darren Samuelsohn, Expert’s Washington Bureau chief, that they had approved our news organization’s request for qualifications.
To be accurate, they issued us one credential. This would be a considerably scaled-down, socially distanced ceremony, after all, with attendees numbering in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands and covering half the National Shopping center as is popular for this once-every-four-years affair..
Pending a health screening, the Insider press reporter would be seated a baseball’s toss away from where Biden would end up being president..
I might hear the disembodied voice of Frank DeLuca, my history-obsessed 4th grade teacher who challenged me to discover the names of each president, providing a passionate “go get ’em!”. Refusing a chance to participate in and report on the inauguration of Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, the very first female to inhabit the workplace, also seemed a bit … journalistically ill-advised.
Or was it?.
Monday, January 18: The dreaded nasal swab.
Downtown Washington, DC, effectively shut down over the weekend, with numerous National Guard and law enforcement checkpoints calling a border you could run a half-marathon along..
At this juncture, health concerns came first: any reporter going to inauguration required to pass a COVID-19 test at one of two designated screening websites– a Pentagon parking lot in Virginia or the Capitol itself..
I picked the Pentagon. At first, it appeared like many any drive-in COVID testing site. Came the huge guys with weapons. They strongly, but politely, asked some standard Admiral James Stockdale-esque questions: Who are you? Why are you here?
Their questions responded to, I continued to a tent where a female in full PPE checked my congressional press pass, took some info, and administered a nose swab. No matter for how long this pandemic lasts, I question I’ll ever get utilized to someone sticking something in my face as the cost of covering a political occasion..
Prior to midnight, I got a text message with a link: my COVID-19 test was unfavorable. I could attend the inauguration– if I could get to the Capitol the next early morning.
Tuesday, January 19: Playing tourist.
Reports and reports of all sorts of inbound badness swirled hour by hour– people found with weapons, a prospective 2nd Capitol attack.
A pre-inauguration email chain amongst some Capitol Hill and political reporters offered me pause..
Some were considering acquiring bullet-proof vests and shrapnel safety glasses for inauguration day. Others were concerned about chemical representatives and other hazards..
Darren and I discussed a range of contingency plans– everything from bomb risks to civil discontent to what I should do if authorities poorly detained me.
Out of an abundance of care, I sent a message to Mark Richards, owner of Full Metal Jacket in Virginia, asking about personal protective gear. He rapidly responded and detailed his products for careful journalists: gas masks, ballistic helmets, plates that can stop a bullet from a high-powered rifle.
No dice: Congressional officials told news press reporters that they would be rejected entry to the inauguration if they used a protective vest or other tactical equipment. My MacGyver impulse purchase on Expert’s penny? I ‘d need to wait for some other crisis.
Reporters had a window of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday to get their qualifications for Wednesday’s inauguration– inside a Senate office building nearby to the Capitol. I had not been to the Capitol complex since the January 6 insurrection, so I wasn’t rather sure what to anticipate.
I made the brief drive from my home in Northeast Washington and parked on a street about 1 1/2 miles short of the Capitol. 3 distinct layers of security fortified the Capitol: preliminary checkpoints, an external boundary ringed by a razor-wire-topped fence, and an inner fenced boundary patrolled by hundreds of armed troops and law enforcement authorities. As I strolled the labyrinth, nine various individuals stopped to check my ID or perform a security screening.
Inside the Russell Senate Office Building, I chose up my inauguration credentials, drama-free. But not wishing to lose the effort of arriving, I navigated through the network of Capitol complex tunnels to the Capitol itself for an impromptu self-tour.
What I saw was sobering. Scars of the January sixth attack stayed. The shattered glass. The broken doors. A display covered with wooden boards.
Flanked by three aides, now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell strolled down a marble passage gradually and calmly, having actually revealed the hour previously that he in part blamed Trump for the attack on the Capitol.
Then I entered the Rotunda– the interior of the Capitol’s dome. It is among those rare places in the United States, natural or manufactured, that inspires wonder on your very first or your 50 th see..
For a minute, I stood there alone. Statues of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. towered 10 feet high.
Wednesday, January 20: Front-row seat to history.
The night in the past, my young boy opened my hand as I kissed him goodnight and pressed among his plastic green Army males into it.
” He’ll safeguard you tomorrow.”.
My alarm sounded at 4 a.m. I consumed some breakfast, checked out a bit, submitted a number of stories. Around 6 a.m., I grabbed my computer bag filled with the requirements of reporting outdoors in winter– long coat, grippy gloves, a box of pens, numerous notebooks, additional batteries, and great deals of granola bars– and went out. My brand-new N95 mask felt adequately tight and unpleasant.
On any pre-pandemic workday, vehicles would jam North Capitol Street as countless commuters jockey for position. On any past Inauguration Day, tens of countless revelers would have loaded its pathways, strengthened with caffeine and anticipation for a singularly American occasion that connects the nation to its very roots, when George Washington in 1789 stood upon a balcony in the then-capital city of New york city to become the United States’ first president.
There would have likewise been noise, noise, noise, noise, because Washington, DC, is a city of noise. Most is vibrant: Horns beeping, demonstrators showing, street preachers preaching. Politicians, lobbyists, journalists– everybody here constantly has something to state..
Of late, however, the sound has grown darker: the hateful tweets, the racial epitaphs, shouts of rebellion, even calls to eliminate..
At the Capitol today, both yielded.
No matter that Trump himself ghosted the event. From where I sat in the front row, I could see some of the now-former president’s most strident supporters– Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas amongst them– talking with members of a crowd controlled by Democrats.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another Trump loyalist, sat the obligatory six feet away from Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser, among Trump’s primary detractors.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who led the joint congressional committee charged with arranging the inaugural ceremony itself, encouraged all Americans to combine behind a desire to develop, to grow, and to conquer shared difficulties– be it the pandemic or attack on the republic.
” As soon as again, we renew our commitment to our determined democracy, creating a more perfect union,” Blunt informed those gathered. “The United States can just satisfy its guarantee, and set an example for others, if we are always working to be much better than we have actually been.”.
After Biden took his oath of workplace from Supreme Court Justice John Roberts– an appointee of President George W. Bush, who in addition to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama– the brand-new president approached the lectern to speak. The city appeared to fall still. Even the wind-blown snow flurries calmed as if in anticipation of what he ‘d state.
” Here we stand just days after a riotous mob believed they might use violence to silence the will of individuals, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground,” Biden stated. “It did not take place. It will never ever occur. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” Join the discussion about this story” NOW SEE: July 15 is Tax Day– here’s what it’s like to do your own taxes for the very first time