Inauguration Day Dawns: Our Report from the Scene

By: Charles Geraci

[Note: The writer, a daily newspaper reporter in Utah, is a former intern for E&P who has reported for us from the GOP convention in New York in 2004 and from the Democratic convention in Denver in 2008. He also reported for MTV on election year politics this year.] As many as 2 million people are expected to arrive on the National Mall for the inauguration of Barack Obama at noon today, and E&P will have nearly a front row seat — literally, right in section 1, as Obama takes the oath of office and gives his address. Check back later in the day for exclusive photos.

On Monday, it hardly mattered that Obama’s inauguration was still hours away. Dozens of people from all over the country were already lining up at Metro stations around D.C. last night, waiting to get their passes ahead of Tuesday morning’s rush.

At one diner in Greenbelt, Maryland–about a half hour from downtown D.C.–customers are already eating “Patriotic Pancakes,” as part of a special inauguration menu.

And the cameras are already flashing at the Capitol, where dozens of bystanders were photographing the inaugural setup on a cold, clear night.

Emanuel Scott, 43, from Harlem, New York City, was one of those taking in the scene at the Capitol Monday night.

“Tonight, we were able to walk right up to the grandstand, see all the chairs and where the platform is going to be where Obama will take the oath, which is great because I know tomorrow … we’ll be back by the (Washington) Monument,” he said. “We wanted to just get a feel for what it’s going to be like.”

Other, more fortunate inauguration-goers could be found in long lines outside the House and Senate office buildings early Monday morning, waiting to get their tickets to Obama’s swearing-in ceremony.

After picking up my E&P media credential Monday afternoon, I headed to the Newseum a few hours later for a behind-the-scenes look at CNN’s broadcast operation on the rooftop. I got to observe about 20 minutes of live programming, led by Wolf Blitzer. Though the control room was fairly warm, it got a bit chilly near the set adjoining it. No wonder Anderson Cooper has been accusing Blitzer of stealing all the heaters.

Despite the cold, the view from atop the Newseum–with the well-lit Capitol in the line of sight on inauguration eve–made it all worth it. The big Huffington Post party took place at the Newseum last night, with celebrities, minor or major, galore.

When I finally arrived back in Greenbelt–I’m staying with my 78-year-old uncle for the inauguration–he suggested we grab some dinner at the Silver Diner in town. Any place outside of D.C. would have been fine; I just wanted an hour or two to decompress after a long day of Obama-mania.

He ordered some breakfast, then asked me, “How about an ‘Obamalette’ tonight?”

It sounded good, but not willing to give in to any more of the hype for the night, I tossed the inauguration menu aside and settled for a platter of shrimp.

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