One among many:

The journey to be one of the millions of Americans who witnessed President Obama’s inauguration was long and hard, but all the more worthwhile.Ten hours in the car with four other guys isn’t exactly enjoyable travel, but now Vermont was behind us and we were in the nation’s capital.The morning of Jan. 20 began at 3:45 a.m. when my alarm jolted me out of my two hours of sleep. Our crew hopped on the metro in from Virginia at 4:30 a.m. and began the long journey to the center of the monumental city.The train was packed with voices: southern twangs, nasal Midwestern drawls and even the distinct sharpness of another Vermonter came from the back of our train.I can embellish sentimentality with the best of them, but you have to take this at face value when I say I was beginning to feel like a patriot again. All of these people – including myself – were here to do one thing, witness the ushering in of a new era – an era we believed in. An era we were excited for.An impromptu rendition of “America the Beautiful” broke out further up the train. This had all the feelings for an epic day.Pouring out of the metro station with the stars lighting the sky above us, two photographers and myself followed the ever-growing crowds as they trickled down avenues, building into a powerful, steady current of people.The hustlers were out in full form, hocking goods like Obama T-shirts, pins and coffee mugs. This was the American entrepreneurial spirit in its purest form – hopefully the first of much stimulation to come from our new leader.The air was still and cool as we approached the mall. The Washington monument pierced the night sky. It was an obelisk of light in front and then behind us as we made our pilgrimage toward the Capitol Building.The crowd was already strong at 5 a.m., a mere six hours from the actual ceremonies of the day. Groups huddled together under blankets for warmth, clung to each other on top of steam vents while various photographers and news crews darted about the grounds anxious to capture the energy for their audiences.The energy was high, but everyone was civil. My past experiences in crowds of this capacity usually came in concert form, complete with impatient fans, billowing smoke and general obnoxiousness. This was not the case.As the sun began to rise over the mall, the crowd warmed and settled into their places. I quickly found myself locked shoulder to shoulder with a family from Georgia decked head to toe in fur and a young couple from the Northeast more conservatively dressed in outdoor gear.Here we were, freezing our butts off in the middle of a packed dirt mall with the Capitol Building shining in the morning sun. The whole morning just oozed sentimentality. This wasn’t Hallmark. This was real. This was me feeling patriotic for the first time in, well, ever. This was me realizing what it was like to care about my country again.All around me, tiny handheld American flags waved in eager expectation of the events to come. Helicopters circled high overhead and the rooftops of the buildings on either side of the mall were dotted with snipers, the only ominous sign of the day.Beginning at 9 a.m., the jumbotron displays mounted in the mall replayed Sunday’s “We are One” concert, which was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.The crowds sang along with Mary J. Blige and Bruce Springsteen to pass the time. The concert footage was interrupted halfway through by an official notice that more and more streets were being blocked off and that the parade route was officially closed as it had reached capacity.The reality of just how crowded it was began to set in.Two more hours of standing and the screens started to stir with famous faces. Jay-Z, Beyonce, The Governator and Magic Johnson all graced the display.Then came the House of representatives, the Senate, President Carter and wife, President George H.W. Bush and wife and President Clinton and Hillary.At this point, I’m getting beyond antsy. I haven’t eaten anything since 4 a.m., I’ve lost my crew in the crowd and I’m starting to wonder what happens when a human kidney bursts because you haven’t emptied your full bladder in hours.And then it’s happening, he’s on screen flashing his trademark smile and for those few minutes of his speech I’m not cold, I’m not hungry and everyone around me feels the same. We are transfixed. This was a dream being realized. This was the culmination of so many cross-country journeys and pilgrimages from countries beyond our borders all for one reason: to witness history.What comes next is uncertain. It’s going to be a challenge for sure. I think there’s a consensus we’re in good hands, but in those few hours after, two million proud Americans poured into the streets of Washington, D.C., in the most civil and orderly fashion I’ve ever witnessed. We were the tired, we were the poor and we were proud to be Americans.I’ve tried and tried to relay the events in a fashion that doesn’t seem like I’m sugarcoating it. I’ve tried to be cut and dry. If I did that,z I’d be lying. This inauguration was all about the spectacle, the emotion. This was national catharsis.