Calm Before the Storm: A Surreal Day Before the Inauguration

Don Boyd from Warner Robbins, Ga., waits for the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2017. Photo by Brynne Quinlan/BU News Service.

By Landry Harlan
BU News Service

Washington — The harmonies of a women’s choir blared out of a tower of speakers next to the Washington Monument in fits and starts, broken up with static and unintelligible lyrics. A cacophony of sirens, horns and shuffling feet filled in the gaps.

It sounded more like a video installation at a modern art museum than a weekend of celebration.

Over at the Lincoln Memorial, the soundtrack was classic rock and an intermittent “testing, testing” that went out over the loudspeakers. A group of women decked out in red, white and blue, burst into a chorus of “God Bless America” as they waited in line to enter. These were the sounds of inauguration weekend as D.C. prepared to welcome President-elect Donald Trump.

The surroundings were as surreal as the campaign. Confused tourists intermingled with devoted Trump supporters around the Reflecting Pool just a few hours before the Welcome Concert. Everyone avoids eye contact. It’s easy to pick out who wants to be there and whose job it is to be there — just look for the microphones in hand.

When the gates opened at 10:30 a.m., the crowd could maybe fill a high school auditorium. By noon, a it was the size of a high school baseball game. The president-elect has promised the biggest crowds D.C. has ever seen for his inauguration, but at this rate, it might just be the one with the most flair.

Vendors hawked Trump products from every direction, proudly displaying them on boards full of buttons. The buttons with Trump giving thumbs up and the signature scarlet Make American Great Again hats are popular, worn by attendees from age eight to 80.

Country star Toby Keith and rock band Three Doors Down were scheduled to perform, a far cry from the star power on display at the last two inaugurations. Other acts on tap included the DC Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, King’s Academy Honor Choir and the Republican Hindu Coalition.

Off to the sides of the event there were was a lineup of portable toilets. There were no lines to get inside.

Leave a Comment