By Jack Hellie
We are walking down 3rd Street from the Washington Center toward the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro stop, on our way to fetch tickets to the inauguration from our respective members of Congress. Logan is eating a frozen Red Baron pizza, and mentions a concert, free and open to the public as a part of the celebrations surrounding the inauguration.
I wasn’t planning to give it a thought, until Logan mentioned Toby Keith, my childhood favorite country star would be performing. I was in, Alex was in. The gates for the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration would close at 3:30pm.
After a snafu with the Metro, we made it to the Hart Senate Office Building, retrieved a pair of tickets, and began our walk to the Canon Office Building, where tickets from Rep. Tom Emmer of my home district in Minnesota were waiting. The deadline to pick up tickets from Rep. Emmer’s office was 3:00pm. As we neared the building, the line for the visitors entrance was long. Around the corner of the building long.
With less than one hour to go before the gates to the concert would close, we were only on the steps of the Canon Office Building, not even through the doors. While waiting to go through security upon entering the building, Logan and I looked up the quickest routes. We were on the south side of the Capitol building, but needed to get to the World War II Memorial, a few miles away. Taking the Metro would require a change of line, and could be unpredictable. Walking was a crapshoot, and likewise a taxi or Uber because of road closures.
In 25 minutes the three of us shook some hands, signed our names, got our tickets and were out the door. Having decided earlier upon the Metro being the best choice, we were making a run for the Capitol South station.
A Taxi was just dropping off an older couple onto the sidewalk, and flipped on his LED “FOR HIRE” sign. Before the couple could close the door, Logan help it open, stuck his head inside and said, “How quickly can you get us to Constitution and 17th?” The driver looked at him and without skipping a beat said, “Quicker than anybody else.”
15 minutes until the gates close and we are in the taxi ride of our lives. Our driver, whose name we never learned, is moving through Chinatown at a pace which dashboard mounted Go-Pro camera footage could go viral.
We make it to the entrance to the concert only to wait in line for security, for the third time today. But we do make it. We are three guys from Iowa in sea of people from across the country. Everywhere you look there are scarves, flags, t-shirts and hats with TRUMP emblazoned across the front.
The concert begins with the Army Band playing traditional John Phillips Sousa and the sun began to fall to the southwest of the Lincoln Memorial where the stage was set.
The concert featured acts from different genres; The Piano Guys, Lonestar, Three Doors Down (booooo), Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith. As we walked through the crowd and enjoyed the music, the scene felt different than other Donald Trump events. There was no sense of angst among the supporters and no protesters to be seen or heard (at least where we were). The mood was high. It was a beautiful January night on the eve of a historic day, which will be a day of hope for many of the folks in the crowd. For the most part, everyone was enjoying the moment. A time to relax and sing along to familiar, patriotic songs with others who maybe knocked doors or made phone calls, or just shares a deep love and appreciation for the soon-to-be president.
We didn’t have much notice of the concert, so I did not take much time to think about my expectations for it before hand. But in the moment I felt surprised. The atmosphere was not what I had expected, not what I have experienced at other Trump events I have attended.
I am curious and hopeful that tomorrow, Inauguration day, is a day of looking forward and moving forward. A day unlike any day anywhere else in the world. Tomorrow at 12:29pm Barrack Obama will still be President of the United States. But at 12:31pm, when Donald J. Trump releases his hand from the same Bible Abraham Lincoln placed his on, the transfer of power from one party to another will be completed, peacefully, and the President of the United States will be Donal Trump.
Time for bed.
Alarm will go off.
Gates to the Capitol grounds will open.
Donal J Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.