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I survived—and loved every minute of it! (Sometimes I exaggerate, but maybe you can forgive me today.)

Despite the staggering crowds and frostbitten toes and fingers, I feel incredibly lucky that I could be an eyewitness to President Obama’s inauguration, such an amazing day in our nation’s capitol. It won’t be long before I’ve completely forgotten the travel hiccups and stressful moments when walls of people pushed against barricades; instead, I know I’ll more likely remember my mental slideshow of streets and ledges and walls and grass packed with excited, expectant faces.

Because of the numbers expected, media were cautioning that we should probably choose between watching the inauguration or the parade. We decided to head to the official inauguration festivities, hoping that an early start would at least get us in a decent view of the Capitol. We didn’t have tickets to the reserved sections, but we did make it as close as we could, snapped a few pictures, then turned back to camp out at a space on the mall near the Museum of American History. As the time ticked down to the oath of office and Obama’s speech, personal space went out the window and we all got a bit more neighborly. I’ve lived in NYC, but I’ve never seen that many people in such a concentrated space. (New Year’s Eve in Times Square is the only thing I’ve ever witnessed that might be comparable, and that’s only several hundred thousand people.) But no one seemed to mind the lack of elbow room as we waved our flags (provided by the cute lil’ Boy Scouts) and laughed and huddled and chanted and cheered.

Since my invitation to the ball was apparently lost in the mail, I’m headed for an early light’s out. This entire journey has been an amazing, festive party, but I—and all of us, so says our new president—have a lot of work to do!