Men, women and children from all walks of life are gathered together on the National Mall today to witness the 57th Inauguration Day—including several from Chattanooga.
Among those witnessing the second swearing in of President Barack Obama is a group of 32 students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, who were chosen to participate in the weekend trip after explaining why they were interested in witnessing the inauguration and what they hoped to gain from it. The group left Chattanooga late Saturday evening and expects to return to campus in time for classes on Tuesday.
Hannah Lazar, a senior, told Nooga.com that the group planned on taking the last D.C. metro to the mall at 2 a.m. in hopes of getting as close to the podium as possible.
"I'm really excited to see the energy and the people," Lazar said. "I've been told it's more people than you can imagine."
Although hundreds of thousands are expected to flock to the mall Monday, the projected number of attendees is far less than the nearly 2 million who were present for Obama's first inaugural. Nathan Gayle, who attended the 2009 event as a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, said he could tell a palpable difference between the bustle then and now.
"Four years ago, it was a euphoric feeling of awe and wonder," Gayle said. "You felt like something was going to happen. This year, it's a different scene. There were a lot more people running around during the daytime four years ago; now, it's completely less crowded. I'm hoping tomorrow everything will pick up."
Monday will undoubtedly be more bustling for Daniel Ryan, a Chattanoogan who worked as lead developer on the Obama 2012 campaign. Ryan, who traveled to Washington on Friday, said he planned a full weekend of events, concluding with Monday's inaugural ball, held at a D.C. convention center.
"This is definitely the culmination of everything," Ryan said. "It's one of those things where the reality of what we did has become more and more real in the months since the election. The inauguration will be like the final stamp, we'll be done, and I'll be able to close the door on this part of my life … As a staff, we talked about the inauguration all during the campaign. We knew that it would be tons of fun and that everybody would be there."
Ryan also said that despite his work on the campaign to re-elect Obama, he was looking forward to witnessing the inaugural event from a purely historical perspective.
"My academic background is history, so there's a part of me that wants to do this because it's watching history be made," he said. "Seeing a president get sworn in for the second time is a big deal."
Shalin Shah, another UTC senior, said he expected the event to be moving and significant—particularly in its Democratic nature.
"I see the event as a symbol of what our democracy can achieve," Shah said. "I look to the president as a role model and a symbol of hope. As a fellow minority, I'm very proud of what he is doing, what he has done and what he will be doing."
Shah said he planned on wearing a suit to Monday's event out of respect for its significance—even if forecasts are calling for cold weather.
"Some of the chaperones think I'm crazy," he said. "But I think that it's respectful. They told us to be prepared to be outside in 20-degree weather for up to seven or eight hours, so I'll definitely be wearing long johns under my suit."
Monday's swearing in event begins at 11:30 a.m.