Day: January 20th, 2009


Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 | All Things, Events, NYC History

Yes, it still felt good the morning after, and even still a month and a half later when it seemed the entire city paused on a cold and bright January morning to revel once again in this historic moment.

Obama’s inauguration was broadcast on screens large and small throughout the five boroughs.  In the Financial District, productivity plummeted (and Internet connections slowed) around 11:30AM as workers put aside their work to watch the event on their computers or office television sets.  I made my way to the Jumbotron screen set up outside the New York Stock Exchange where the crowds were quickly building, arriving just in time to hear a sparkly bow-topped Aretha Franklin belt out “My Country, Tis of Thee” before Joe Biden’s swearing in by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Several hundred people filled Broad Street despite the freezing temperatures — though no comparison to the crowds that were shown at the Mall in DC. Crowd estimates there varied wildly from 1.5 million to 4 million — though most of the time, the figures are almost entirely made up anyway; the Associated Press stayed conservative with their report of “more than 1M“.  I believe it.

Obama Inauguration

The musical selection lead-in was by John Williams with snippets of familiar melody lifted from the traditional Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts,” which Aaron Copland also famously borrowed for his “Appalachian Spring“. The tune broadcasts Inspiration, capital I, especially when rendered by Itzhak Perlman and Obama’s favorite cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  Even if the music was pre-recorded.

And then, the moment we were all there to witness: Barack Hussein Obama taking the Oath of Office:

Obama Inauguration

The assembled crowd cheered riotously, among them several dozen schoolchildren in homemade Obama headgear, who had gathered with us on the steps of Federal Hall.

Federal Hall steps

Obama supporters

Our new president delivered a measured, somber speech on this jubilant day, one which garnered generally favorable reviews.  I did appreciate the nod to American songwriter Jerome Kern (at 1:03) — and yes, friends, this song was written in 1936, but it’s a standard, and it was performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, so therefore not so strange that I recognized the reference… geez!

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Check out the full NYSE Inauguration simulcast Flickr set here.

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