Cover the Assignment – 2013 Inauguration Week-end

Kat Lexie and Ms. D, Backpack Journalists

Washington, DC – Monday, January 21,2013

After each Cover the Assignment, Backpack Journalists sit down and write up what we call “after-action report”.  These past three days have been busy and we have been all over the Washington, DC .  We have collected stories and taken hundreds of photos.  We have met people from all over the world, and walked many, many miles. Over these next few days we will be uploading our stories and photographs.  For now, here are some of our most favorite experiences and  our YEA/UGH observations of this past weekend.

Our most favorite experience – a “tie” between:

2013MLK National Service Day – at the DC National Guard National Armory.  Thousands of volunteers came in shifts to fill 100,000 bags of toilet items for service members and their families.  This day was well-orchestrated by Points of Light, Target,  Unite and Operation Gratitude and a host of other volunteers.  On site we met Richard Blanco, the poet that was chosen to share his work during the Swearing-in.  We spent time with many of the volunteers, some who came as far west as Texas.  We spoke to a Target Store Manager whose husband had been deployed.  We spent time also with Gary from Points of Light.  We met Bullseye – the Target dog.  The music was great and we spent time learning a few new steps.  And, lastly, we spent time with some of our favorite National Guard youth and their parents at the DC Guard Armory.  While there on Sunday, we were most fortunate to meet Mrs. Pat Grasse, spouse of the CG of the National Guard.  What a lovely lady, as after all of her escorts seem to walk to the next appointment, she stayed behind to speak to Kat whose Dad is deployed now!. Thanks to Mama Lynch for her hospitality and her never-ending basket of candy and popcorn!

We went behind-the-scenes with a group of public affairs service members to visit to several locations around Washington, DC where hundreds of  National Guard service members from across the United States were housed.  We expected to find a hotel.  No, NOT the Ritz, but these National Guardsmen were located in school gymnasiums and the “Y” .  Humvees fully loaded with the latest greatest technology equipment sat outside next to the playground equipment. Guardsman from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Nevada and other states, provided traffic management to standing guard at each Metro Station to getting up at 2 am on Inauguration Day to stand guard at certain access points.Guard at subway

So how did they all “get along?”.  One quote we heard often:  “We have the same training, our commanders communicate, and even if we are from different states and units, we perform the mission together”.  The briefings and training were ongoing on site in Washington, DC.  Kudos to the National Guard and their leadership for providing 5500 National Guardsman from 31 states in Washington, DC and serving in all capacities.  What a comfort it was to look out among the vast masses of people to see the uniform!

Glad we went to the The Kid’s Inaugural Concert:

Credentialed as press, we sat up on the riser and had a great view of the entire ballroom and the stage area.  Lots of great music – but our favorite:  The Black Violin group from Chicago and the Chicago Soul Youth Group Singers.  WOW!

The Inauguration – the Mall & Parade



Prior  to coming we were advised “It is going to be cold”.  Dress Warmly.  We did.  Lots of people.  Yes, crowds.  So we were prepared with lots of layers. However, the crowds were more llike masses of humanity.  Often we simply moved in unison.  Not even sure if our feet hit the ground?  It was hard to change direction.  So we often had to carefully plot our journey from one street to another.  The Secret Service at the last minute would close a media access point.  So walking we did, and when in the masses, we “moved”.

The street vendors were everywhere.  Lots of Swag to spend your money on from tote bags to t-shirts.  Magnets and full color photo calendars.  And, all vendors were busy selling.

The Swearing-in.  We looked forward to hearing the poem read by Richard Blanco as he had been such a great interview.   It was hard to hear outside, so we headed inside to a nearby hotel where they had the ceremony televised.  Back at the hotel, we finally heard all of the ceremony and still thinking more about the President’s message.

We had first row seats for the Parade!  We were there when President Obama and Mrs. Obama got out of their secure car and began walking!  Right in front of us and Kat and Lexie captured it on our camera!

To close:

YEA to the 5500 members of the National Guard from the 31 states for providing security support for this entire weekend.  One team offered up the use of their gloves while we waited.

UGH to the attendees who complained loudly about the security!  They were there to keep all of us safe.

YEA to CPAN!  For handing out FREE buttons announcing their broadcast of the entire event.  FREE.  Yep – free.  The design  – 2013 Presidential Inauguration!

UGH to the street vendor who had printed our Nation’s Flag with other images on top of it – something like 2013 Inauguration, etc.   The designer needs to understand how important the US Flag is to us.  And, when we stopped to take a photo, the street vendor offered up – “we can thank China!”.  Maybe it reduced our debt?

YEA to all those who traveled across this great land to attend the 2013 Inauguration Weekend bringing their teenage grandchildren and helping each to understand the importance of this special day!

UGH to the “masses” who left behind their trash all over the sidewalks and Metro steps.   The Metro staff had in place lots of trash collectors, but more often folks were seen just dropping their empty cups and paper down on the ground?  What?

YEA to the CNN Atlanta based photographer who walked with us as we searched out a gate to access the parade and to the Secret Service agent who let us through after it had been closed.

A question that kept coming up as we observed as credentialed as PRESS, just how was all this paid for?  We keep hearing about budgets, our nation’s debt and then sequestration that will affect all of the military and that includes families too?

More soon – we had a great time.  Exhausted.  Ready to go home now and to begin sharing more of our experiences.  Check our flickr – facebook and here!