Nicole Egan said attending the Presidential Inauguration on Monday was likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – though it was exciting, she doubts she’ll make the trek down to D.C. for it again.
Egan was lucky enough to grab five of 300 tickets provided to Rhode Islanders by Congressman Jim Langevin this year. Egan took her daughters, Alexandra, 18, and MacKenzie, 15, to the inauguration, as well as her boyfriend, Douglas Prescott and his daughter, also MacKenzie, 14.
The journey to the White House started back in November, when Egan took her eldest daughter, Alexandra, to the polls for the first time. There they met the Congressman’s mother, June Langevin.
“You got that personal connection right before going in,” said Egan, who wrote a note to Congressman Langevin just a few days later.
In the note, she asked how someone would obtain tickets to the inauguration. She wondered if the congressman might have some advice.
What she found was that Congressman Langevin had much more than advice: he had tickets to give her.
"It was an honor to be able to provide tickets for nearly 300 Rhode Islanders to go to the inauguration,” said Langevin in a statement. “It is always inspiring to see so many people come together to celebrate our democracy. Every congressional office receives an allocation of tickets and we accommodate as many constituents who request them as possible, on a first-come, first-served basis."
Egan found out she and her family were getting tickets on Dec. 21. It didn’t give her much time to plan, but they managed to book a relatively inexpensive hotel room for the Sunday prior to Monday’s public inauguration ceremony.
When Egan and her family arrived Sunday, they promptly picked up their tickets and checked into their hotel. At the time, Washington, D.C. was pretty quiet.
“Surprisingly it wasn’t as busy as what we’d thought it would be,” she said.
They spent the day wandering the most famous places in the capital city, seeing the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and checking out where they expected to stand on the green. Their passes also included invites to a party with the Rhode Island delegation, but they weren’t able to fit it in.
Still, they managed to meet and see a lot of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. Egan was amazed to learn that people had traveled from across the country and from other parts of the world to watch President Barack Obama get sworn into his second term.
On Monday, the day of the ceremony, Egan and her family awoke at 5 a.m. Security checkpoints opened at 7 a.m., so they aimed to arrive at the Capitol at about 6. But when they turned on the morning news, they heard that people had been standing in line since 2 a.m.
“Of course we started panicking,” she said. They also promptly turned off the TV.
Soon they were in the car and on their way to the Metro, D.C.’s subway system.
“The Metro was so well organized,” said Egan. “It didn’t seem too crowded.”
It wasn’t until they got off at the stop closest to the Capitol that they saw “swarms of people.”
Egan and her family then had to travel through three security checkpoints; the last one included a full body scan, like those used at airports. A metal belt buckle caused Egan to have to open her coat for security.
“It was cold,” she said. “The wind was blustering.”
The ground was damp, too, making it nearly impossible to sit.
Despite the damp chill, Egan said everyone, even the security guards, was jovial.
Eventually they made their way to the section where they would stand to watch the ceremony, a section that was fairly close to the platform on which the president would stand.
At a point before commencement of the ceremony, Egan said they could no longer make or receive calls on their cell phones, although the devices showed there was service. That communications blackout lasted for the duration of the president’s speech.
Egan said her view was “disappointing.” The podium was roughly 1,000 feet away, and Egan, at just over 5’ 3”, couldn’t see anything.
“If you’re even 5’ 5”, you were blocking my view,” she said with a laugh.
Egan and her family tried several vantage points to get a glimpse of the president but ultimately resigned to watching him on the big screens. Still, it was a powerful experience.
“Just hearing everybody come together for the purpose of hope and a new direction … was uplifting,” she said.
Egan said she and her family, especially her children, were very tired after the whole trip was over. She doesn’t expect she’ll make the trip down to D.C. to watch another inauguration, except in one particular scenario:
“If a woman gets into the White House, I think I would be going,” she said.