Final Say: Hurry Up and Wait
An Inauguration Day Diary of a Punahou Marching Band Member
By Sarah Douglas '10
This is it: the day of the inauguration, the reason for coming all this way. I should be excited, but in truth, it's difficult to be excited over anything at 4:30 in the morning. My roommates and I squeeze our uniforms on over more pairs of long underwear than should be physically possible while chaperones prod sleepy musicians from their beds. After being in Washington, D.C., for several days, we're well aware of just how bone-chillingly cold the weather can be. Unfortunately, contrary to our hopes that today's temperature will miraculously turn out to be somewhere near habitable (70 degrees, please?), the dark sky seems to promise nothing out of the ordinary. Some kids claim they see snowflakes, but I'm too preoccupied with the ominous crunching sounds Hawaiian marching shoes make as they meet ice crystals for the first time ever. Clutching hatboxes and instruments, we are bundled onto gloriously warm buses. Although several adults come in to wish us good luck, many band members are asleep even before we start rolling.
The imposing silhouette of the Pentagon is lost in the shadows of pre-dawn. With all of our belongings in tow, we shuffle groggily through metal detectors while the military men running them cheerfully remark "It'll only get colder from here, folks!" Only a few band members manage to stop their teeth from chattering long enough to crack a wan smile. After a painfully long wait for the buses to reappear from their own screening, we return to what has quickly become our favorite place in D.C.: the interior of a warm bus.
I suppose I'm feeling now the excitement that was missing from the early morning. We've been at the Pentagon for several hours, but nobody knows the exact time. We watch the sun rise over the vast, deserted parking lot, and while it appears to be a pleasant sunny day, my hand on the frigid window glass quickly proves otherwise. A lesson many Hawaiian kids have learned on the trip is that although the sun is up, it is not warm outside. The engine of the bus is starting, and our military escort tells us that we'll be traveling to the Mall under police escort any minute now. We prepare by pluming our hats and setting up our instruments. We leave the bus only with what we will carry in the parade.
15 minutes later
Everybody must have moments when they look out over an immense, grassy lawn or plain or football field and imagine just how many blades of grass are growing. Then they imagine how many cells exist in each leaf, and how many molecules are in each cell until the entire world turns itself inside out over the minuscule nature and subsequent immeasurable enormity of things. The Mall, from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial, is completely filled with people. As we wave and shaka to them, and as they wave back, I imagine how many eyes are looking back at me, how many smiling faces, and how many bodies are here for a single, unified purpose.
Around 4:30 p.m.
We leave the staging tents soon after the new president finishes his inaugural address, and then stand outside at attention, then at parade rest, then at ease and finally in small, pathetic clumps like penguins as we try desperately to retain heat. Hurry up and wait, we are told, is the theme for the day, and in that I see the truth. For all the time spent in anticipation, the actual moment, the raison d'être lasts little more than a minute. I'm sure we must be an amusing sight as every single member of the band attempts to look left while maintaining a vertical cover as we pass the presidential reviewing stand. The man himself stands at the front, and as we play "Aloha ‘Oe" I think of what we mean to him, to ourselves and to everybody else in the wide world: the past, perhaps, but also the vibrant future.