Anthony Atwood’s Inauguration Journal – Day 1
FRIDAY 02 – JAN09: This is the three-week journal of my experiences as a Navy Reservist sent to Washington, DC, on temporary active duty in support of the Presidential Inauguration, January 2 through January 23.
Friday morning, January 2nd, sunny and mild. A busy morning. My flight to Washington was at noon and there were many loose ends. Christmas and New Year’s were just over. There were Xmas lights in the bougainvilleas outside. I left them up.
I got to Miami International Airport at mid-morning. The Sky Caps at the curb helped me with my gear. I traveled heavy: a sea bag, garment bag with newly dry cleaned uniforms, a Little Martin traveling guitar slung over my shoulder, and a laptop. The time was favorable; I stopped in for a minute at the Armed Forces Servicemen’s Center off the main concourse. A USO-like lounge for military people passing through. A clean well-lighted place with coffee, Danish and racks to fall out on; it is the labor of love of some great local retired military, and a blessing for the military traveler.
Time and I marched on, passenger screening was smooth. My three seat row of travelers include two ladies; a young nursing student returning to Connecticut. A widow returning to Fairfax. I dozed in the middle seat and when we began out descent into the Washington area said a rosary, counting it off on my fingers. They work as well as beads. When it was complete I opened my eyes just in time to see out the window the Washington’s Monument and the stately buildings of the mall. We landed at National Airport that minute. As soon as we touched down my cell phone went off. It was Mr. Allan McElhiney, an elderly WWII Navy veteran and Ft Lauderdale historian. He told me his pal, retired Colonel Leo Gray, a Tuskegee Airman was going to the Inauguration and would be contacting me. If you don’t know who the Tuskegee Airmen were, just click here.
Arriving at Ronald Reagan National Airport: a cold crisp 36 degrees. Sunny. I picked up my rental car. I got to our lodgings in Arlington before nightfall. It is an extended-stay place a bit like a self-service hotel. The Navy contracted a block of rooms. They are two-bedroom apartments, furnished. Wonderful accommodations, practically the best I’ve ever had, and certainly they beat one sandbagged dugout that comes to memory. My roommate is already onboard. He is a Chief Journalist in the Reserve, a photographer’s mate. In normal life he is a teacher also, from Clearwater, FL. Tomorrow morning we are to report in blues to the Washington Navy Yard across the river. I walked around and got a haircut. Others are filtering in to quarters, a dozen are scheduled altogether. A Chief Yeoman from Los Angeles, she also a teacher. A lady Chief Master at Arms (a Navy cop) from Virginia Beach has driven in. We have three vehicles and plan to caravan. Eleven arrive. The others are all Chief Petty Officers (senior Navy non-coms). I am a Chief Warrant Officer (a junior commissioned officer, the only one) so have some nominal responsibility. I pass the word we will meet in the lobby at “O’dark hundred,” 6:30 am, and go from there.
There seemed a bit of hopeful expectancy at the airport and on the streets on the way in, and all of us Navy people are just delighted and amazed to be part of this, and keenly aware of the singular nature of it all. The rooms have cable, we watch a scary movie “I Am Legend.” Deplorable. And so to bed.