On Friday January 20, 2017 the United States of America held its 58th Presidential Inauguration Ceremony in Washington, D.C.. I was there. And, I was actually on the program! It almost feels like a dream. It is hard to put into words what an amazing and moving experience this was, but I don’t want to forget it – so, I would like to share some highlights, stories and photos of my experience with you.
Just before Christmas Day I got news that the Choir organization had accepted an official invitation to perform for the Inauguration on January 20. Due to the travel logistics only 215 members of our 360+ choir family would be able to attend. So, a selection process must happen. Choir members who were willing and able to travel signed up, and then a random drawing by voice part took place.
For me, singing at the Inauguration had absolutely nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with patriotism and service. This is my personal perspective. I know that others have felt differently, and I respect that. As I’ve blogged previously, I voted for another Presidential candidate. But, that did not matter. An Inauguration Ceremony is a celebration for all Americans of the peaceful transition of power which has taken place in this nation for nearly two and a half centuries. Every four years, like clockwork, there is a rotation in leadership, and our Constitution shines brightly to the world.
“The inauguration of the President of the United States is a ceremony to mark the commencement of a new four-year term of a president of the United States. An inauguration ceremony takes place for each term of a president, even if the president continues in office for a second term. Since 1937, Inauguration Day takes place on January 20 following a presidential election.” – Wikipedia
As you know, I love to sing! For me, it is both my privilege and a responsibility to share that gift with anyone, anywhere to help make the world a better place. So, I was eager for the chance – if chosen – to go to Washington and sing for so many people all in one historic moment – at a time in our history when people need the hope and solace beautiful music can bring.
On December 28 – my birthday -I found out that I had won the luck of the draw and was on the list! I was going to Washington. My excitement was tempered by the fact that so many of my dear choir family who really wanted to come did not get selected. When we left, we carried them in our hearts, and they so sweetly supported and prayed for us from home.
This was going to be a whirlwind out-and-back trip. And, due to high security requirements, we were not allowed to share any details of our travel with anyone, including our families, until after we returned. Luckily, we were not given very many details, which made things easier. 🙂 We knew what we were supposed to pack, and what time we were supposed to arrive at the airport. All the rest was part of the adventure.
Thursday January 19, 2017
3:00 am – Wake Up!
I had a hard time sleeping all night. I get really nervous right before a trip – especially when a flight is involved. My mind plays out all kinds of dramatic scenarios. By the time 3 am rolled around my plane had already gone down in flames twice, and the Designated Survivor for Inauguration Day had a date with destiny.
I felt 100% at peace I was supposed to go to Washington to sing. So, I just took a deep breath and decided that thanks to my personal nightmares, we were now all “pre-disastered” and everything was bound to go smoothly.
4:00 am – Sweet Send Off
Mr. Mo gets Husband Of The Year Award for waking at 3:00 am to drive me and choir friend Jenny to the airport! It had snowed just enough to make the roads very slick, and there was fog, so we had to go slow. When we arrived at the airport Delta was greeting us in style!
6:00 am – Up And Away
We boarded our chartered airplane and taxied to get “De-iced” before take off. Since I got the middle seat, I settled in for the 4.5 hour duration and decided to check out the movie options. For the record, I ended up watching Disney’s new Jungle Book [liked it] and a movie called Me Before You [loved it, until the utterly depressing agenda-thumping ending! *sigh*] 😥 #feelingemotionallybetrayed
We were served a very nice brunch on the flight, and we learned that our happy, darling flight crew was going to be with us round-trip. ♥
12:00 PM Eastern Time – Arrival at Dulles International Airport, Washington DC.
Our airplane parked somewhere out in the middle of the runway. So, I expected that we would walk down a bunch of stairs outside the plane, and then get on a bus. But, no! A space aged looking “people mover” drove out to pick us up. It has hydraulic legs which raise up to the airplane door, so passengers simply walk on and then it lowers itself back down and drives us to the terminal. Okay, this was a first for me, and I thought it was brilliant!
After we gathered our small checked bags we boarded our 5 waiting buses, which would take us to the Capitol steps for our rehearsal and sound check. I saw plenty of Inauguration merchandise as I walked through the terminal.
This is the part of our story where we make our way, circuitously, to the steps of the Capitol for our sound check and rehearsal. Or, at least we tried. Streets were blocked off everywhere, and since security was so high in the city, and there were only so many vehicles being allowed near the capitol, our poor drivers had to keep circling for about an hour until they received clearance to approach.
So, we got a nice tour of the Capitol Hill area streets. Over and around, up and down. I have to post a photo here of one particular church with it’s tall castle looking spire. We kept passing this church from all different directions. No matter which way we turned, eventually, this church would appear again! It made us all laugh.
Eventually, we received clearance, and were able to disembark and make our way to the capitol.
We were allowed to bring our camera phones with us to the sound check, since we were not allowed to have any electronics during the Inauguration. Oh my goodness, the view we had! It was so stunning! The photos simply can’t do it justice. We sure enjoyed these photo ops! While we waited our sound check turn, we listened to Senator Roy Blunt (D-Missouri) practice his speech, and we listed to the wonderful President’s Own Marine Band rehearse while we soaked in the sun – yes, actual sun! – and breathed in that glorious view.
The weather was so glorious for our sound check! Ah… if only it could have lasted. We knew that the weather was predicted to be wet and cold. So, we came prepared. Still…Thursday sure was a glorious day!
Who knew we had to come to Washington from SLC to find the sun and warmth?
4:00 PM – On the road again
After the sound check it was off to the buses, and another long ride to our hotel – which I was told normally could have been 15 minutes, but took nearly 2 hours due to traffic. At one point, we had a glimpse of a fireworks show behind us – which we assume was the end of the big Inauguration concert. Sadly, missed all that.
6:30-ish PM – Dinner
We finally made it to our hotel, patiently endured the inevitable long line for check-in and elevators which is a process one must expect when checking over 200+ people in at the same time [but this was nothing! We are used to over 600+ people on our tours].
During dinner our leadership shared some of the logistics miracles that happened for everything to fall so quickly into place for us to come. There was simply no doubt we were meant to be here, and I felt very humbled to be a part of this historic event.
Unfortunately, our stay in this lovely hotel, and soft bed, was cut extremely short. Our wake-up call came about 4:00 am (which was 2:00 am home time), in order to dress, eat a quick breakfast, check out and board the buses by 6 am to take us back to the capitol building.
A note about the weather
OK, I am not making this up. The weather report changed every single hour between Wednesday – Friday. I know. I watched it. Sometimes it said rain, sometimes just partly cloudy. Once it predicted sun. Sometimes the rain was going to start at 3 am and continue all day, or perhaps end by the Inauguration, or not start until noon… ugh! Needless to say, this made it very difficult to know which layers of clothing I should wear! All of us would be wearing our cream performance coats and our new red plaid scarves. We would wear white shirts and black pants underneath. Yep, the sisters were being allowed to wear black pants, instead of skirts, to keep our legs warm. (Hooray!!) So, I had packed 3 different potential pant/shirt options depending on the weather, and multiple different thermal layer options. But… I still had no idea…
Friday, January 20, 2017
The big day had finally arrived! At 5:00 am the final weather report I could check said freezing rain beginning at 8:00 and continuing throughout the Inauguration. OK. So, I opted for my black waterproofed ski pants, merino wool socks and white sweater [the weather didn’t stick to plan of course – and it didn’t rain as long [happily] but at least I was never wet nor cold!
Based on our traffic experience Thursday, I wondered how we would make it back to the Capitol on Friday in time. But, this morning we had an official police motorcade waiting to escort us there! As I boarded the bus, I happened to overhear the captain of the motorcade speaking to one of our leaders, saying;
“It is an honor, sir, for us to escort you today.”
Oh my goodness, I get tears in my eyes thinking about that. God bless them.
So, off we all went! Lights flashing, sirens blaring, the tour buses keeping pace with the motorcade slowing or stopping traffic as needed all along the way. We went flying along – even through red lights and all – and yes, our buses sure did arrive at the Capitol in record time!
Each of us received an official ticket to the Inauguration which we had to present with our ID to go through a security check similar to the airport.
After we were all gathered together inside an ancillary building, we were escorted through a tunnel which brought us to the Senate Building. I have no personal photos of course, since no electronics were allowed [I doubt photos are allowed there at any time]. We waited inside a beautiful ballroom in the Senate building until it was time to line up and take our places on the Capitol stage across the street. We had to be in place 2 hours before the televised program, during the ‘pre-show’. I was soon extremely grateful for the disposable poncho they handed to us before leaving that room!
A Little Spot of Rain
America The Beautiful
When it was our turn, it was a thrill to stand and sing this anthem for our nation.
Photos I didn’t take
Be sure to check out CNN’s Inauguration Gigapixel Photo
I’m pretty much addicted to zooming in and out and exploring this amazing frozen moment in history.
Sometimes, I’m just in awe of what we can do in our modern world, aren’t you?!
Four Angel Moments
#1. Seeing the golden spires of the LDS Washington Temple out our bus window on the way to the airport
#2. When boarding the “people mover” for our return flight, the driver asked for our attention, and then made this announcement:
“At 11:58 am today, I turned up the volume on my television, closed my eyes, and listened to you sing America The Beautiful. It was like hearing angels from heaven. Thank you so much for coming.”
#3. Singing “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” to our flight crew after landing safely in Salt Lake City and seeing their smiles and tears.
#4. Receiving a special text from my Sister in Law sharing that while she listened to us sing that morning, she was overcome by the feeling that her sweet angel mom Elaine was with me in Washington. ♥
It was an incredibly moving experience to be a part of a Presidential Inauguration. I thought it would be nice, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so powerful. I was overcome with love and respect for our nation, and its principles and process for a peaceful transition of power.
I wish that every American citizen could attend an Inauguration Ceremony in person at least once. Preferably in young adult years. I’d really love for each one to be able to sit at the top of the Capitol steps and look out at the sea of citizens gathering across the great Mall toward the Washington Monument, and then to look downward and see the Supreme Court Justices, the Senators and Congress, the governors, and all of the living Presidents past & present seated just a few feet away.
There is a spirit in our nation’s capitol city like no other. It is hallowed ground, which holds a sacred trust for 50 wonderfully diverse, and yet wonderfully united states.
On Friday, I stood on that hallowed ground and sang with all of my heart, for our country, and for any who listened – whether domestic or abroad to feel peace and hope. I believe in US. No matter who is serving as our leadership, this is a great land with great people. We have a powerful history of tenacity and bravery, growth, creativity, adaptability and innovation. And at the heart of it all, are our homes and families.
It’s all about perspective.
I am certain there will be many challenges ahead – as there always are. There are things we worry about, and big issues to work though. But, there is so much more beauty and goodness in people. That gives me hope for our future. – MoSop