Amanda Ripley

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Inauguration Debrief

21st Jan 2009 posted in General

I’m in Honolulu now to speak to the Pacific Preparedness conference. It’s so beautiful I don’t even want to tell you about it. It just seems wrong. But I will tell you that I sat next to Honlulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann on the flight from DC. The Mayor turns out to be quite the celebrity. During the flight, the pilot, all the flight attendants and several passengers came by to meet him. He was very gracious.

Like me, the Mayor had spent the past few days at inauguration festivities. (Not only is he a Hawaii VIP; he also coached a basketball team that played Obama’s team when he was in high school. He’s like family, this guy!) We talked a bit about what a surreal experience the inauguration was, and we agreed that it will probably never happen again.

Starting on Saturday, there was a buzz in the air. By Sunday, we couldn’t move our car because we knew we’d never get a parking space again. On Monday, I tried to work at a local coffee shop, and I quickly discovered that there were no empty seats left in the city. But the remarkable thing was the exuberance. People walked miles through town to get to the Mall, cameras hanging from their necks and Obama buttons on every piece of clothing. Strangers said hello and smiled like kids on a snow day. On Sunday, we ventured to the Mall to hear U2 and get a glimpse of the action. In front of us, by the Washington Monument, an old man in a Terps hat and sweats just danced and danced, like the happiest man alive. Everytime the JumboTron flashed a picture of Obama’s smiling face, people cheered.

I haven’t felt that much palpable connection between strangers since I lived in Manhattan after 9/11. I don’t know what this means. I do know it won’t last forever, nor should it. But it was lovely.