Anthony Atwood’s Inauguration Journal – Day 4
MONDAY 05 – JAN09: Reveille, Reveille. 0630. Today we take the tube because it is Monday, a work day and we are uncertain about traffic conditions and are going downtown. The subway stop is only two blocks away. The George Mason University campus is across the street from us. The subway is crowded. There is a beautiful blind girl on the subway sitting quietly with her dog at her feet. We wish her good morning and ask the dog’s name. It is a white retriever named Harris.
We get off the subway at our stop and emerge into the morning a block from our destination, a federal office building downtown. Military personnel of all branches are converging on the site. The AFIC is a joint command. This is a once-in-four-years activity, so the building is a loaner. It is split between the AFIC, on the lower two floors, and the PIC (Presidential Inaugural Committee) civilian folks on the upper floors. The civilian folks on the upper floors are in charge; the military presence below is there to help. All the Navy people from Saturday are there, as well as a couple hundred more new arrivals from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. There are the typical scanners and checkpoints you find at most any government office building, manned by Capital Police. We are all herded into a theater in the building. We go through more check in. Much of it is repetition, what the Navy would call a “goat rope” (a paper chase). Everyone has their picture taken. We are told the badges will be ours to keep after I-Day.
The military has been part of inaugurations since the first one, when the Army served as escort to George Washington, the first president and former Commander-in-Chief, when he took the oath of office. With the exception of a few words, it is the exact same oath that all Members of Congress, federal judges and military officers take.
After more welcomes, briefs, and power points, we are split up into groups and begin to disperse through the building to our relative directorates. The groups go their separate ways to their individual assignments. We are not there to provide security, but rather, assistance in every other way possible to make I-Day work. Even under ordinary circumstances this would be something: a week of events capped by the inauguration with a quarter million people, including traditional ceremonies, prayer breakfasts, luncheons, capped by the swearing in of the new president, a parade through the heart of the city of some 13,000 (more than half of them military), a pass-in-review, 10 official balls, and miscellaneous hoopla. Given the first-time circumstances of the coming I-Day, there are many many many more attendees expected.
My assignment is in the Public Affairs shop, which has about fifty personnel. Of the original eleven I assembled with Saturday, only one lady CPO from Michigan is also in my office. She is to be my “battle buddy” during the mission. We are told to come in civilian clothes the next day, bringing our uniforms with us in garment bags.
The map on the wall of our office indicates our building is only a couple blocks from the Mall. A short walk to the Capitol itself. It will be nice to see that, but this day we are released about dusk, the daylight is gone, and we ride the tube back to Arlington quiet with our own thoughts. Taps. Taps. Lights out.