By Sarah Aaskov

January 20, 2009

On
Tuesday afternoon I watched thousands prove that you don’t have to see
to believe. People began lining Pennsylvania Avenue before the sun came
out. I waited at the gate of 12th and E Street with a packed crowd for
over five hours, all for a possible chance to catch a glimpse of the
44th President. Was it silly of me to wait in the freezing cold, my
body pressed up so closely to the people around me? For a while I
thought it was silly. I wouldn’t even be able to see Barack Obama be
sworn in. There were no screens on the parade route.

I have to
be honest. I did feel a bit defeated. I was supposed to be set up on
the National Mall with the rest of the press. But the pass I was given
was useless. I was just another member of the mass of people. I was one
of those who didn’t have a ticket and was just hopeful to get a spot,
any spot. I really didn’t know why so many people would be willing to
stand out in the cold for hours knowing that they wouldn’t get to see
this historic moment; but now I do.

I
finally made my way to the parade line and was given permission to go
to the front of the street as press (I guess the press passes weren’t
completely useless). I got in place about fifteen minutes before Obama
would be sworn in. People who were almost too tired to stand, trying to
stay warm by cheering and wrapping themselves in blankets, didn’t look
like they had just waited in a line of thousands to stare at an empty
road. They looked full of spirit and energy, with smiles stretching
from ear to ear. Celebration had already begun for the Obama supporters
standing before me. And it gave me a feeling I didn’t think I had left
after waiting in that line. I remembered why I waited in line. I
remembered why I wanted to be there. I was witnessing something rare. I
saw people believe that there is hope, that change is possible.

Even
as I think back about that dreadful line I stood in I realized that
although people were discouraged by the waiting they were excited to be
a part of history. They had waited long enough for a change. I guess a
couple more hours in the cold didn’t seem too long any more.

And
as I videotaped the reactions of the people in the crowd Tuesday, their
eyes welled up with tears as they listened to the speech of their new
President over the loudspeaker.  I forgot about the cold and my aching
legs. I wasn’t thinking about the line I had just stood in. For those
brief moments, I felt connected to the strangers around me. We had all
come for the same reason, to witness a change. And although I never
made it to the Mall and didn’t get to see the swearing-in from a
screen, looking at the joy and happiness in the diverse audience around
me just might have been the best view I could have gotten.