It might be hard to imagine that one can be exhausted yet re-energized, but that is exactly what I am on our final night in the nation's capital. Exhaustion is easy to explain. We have done live television for five days with about five hours sleep each night. The re-energized part may be a little harder to understand. Being a witness to a moment in history that will be remembered and talked about forever, yet can never happen again is unexplainable. I am re-energized by the faces of the people I saw on the mall today. Smiles, tears of joy, and strangers hugging strangers is quite a sight, and I am just thrilled I was here to see it with my own eyes.
- Doug WhitmireTuesday, Jan. 20, 2009-- 11:12 a.m.
It is a chaotic, but electric day here in Washington,DC but there is still plenty of room for a funny moment or two. As we were in the midst of a true logistical nightmare I had to laugh. We managed to get to the edge of Pennsylvania Avenue but were blocked by an army of secret service agents. We begged and pleaded with them to let us cross, but the request was only granted if we had a military escort. As we were crossing I stopped to look at an empty parade route with the Capitol at one end and the White House at the other. All of the sudden, I heard a crash. The boxed lunch Cheryl was carrying broke open. Food was all over the street. We quickly picked it up and started to move to the other side when I saw Cheryl reaching for her apple. It was literally rolling down the parade route. Nothing on Pennsylvania Avenue at the time except us and that apple. With all the craziness of this day that single apple at least gave us something to laugh at: ourselves.
- Doug Whitmire
Monday, Jan. 19, 2009-- 3 p.m.In the elevator last night when we got back from working another 16 hour day I noticed a beautiful African American woman. She was elegant! I commented on how she was glowing even at 1 in the morning! I asked her where she was coming from and she said one of the balls, but I can't remember which one. But what really struck me about her was the pride you could see and feel as we exchanged pleasantries. Then as we began to talk further she started talking about the magnitude of the moment and then she said that she was overwhelmed with emotion and so honored to be here to witness history because she said she never thought she would see this in her lifetime! She marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963 here in DC. So for her this was a full circle moment! I talked with her till perhaps 2:00 AM! I was memerized by her story and her journey. She said she wouldn't have missed this moment for anything! My mother always says you can learn from the knee of an elder, wow thanks Mrs. Johnnie Booker for this history lesson!!
-Cheryl BurtonMonday, Jan. 19, 2009-- 3 p.m.
The first real day.
We have been here since late Friday afternoon, but for the first time, Washington, D.C. really feels like it's a buzz with activity.
There are thousands of people from all over the nation on the National Mall this afternoon.
They aren't really doing anything. Taking pictures, talking, watching the replay of yesterdays concert from the Lincoln Memorial on jumbo screens. I can tell that they just want to be on the mall. To say they were in the capital when Barack Obama became President. On this Martin Luther King day, I hear the stories from the African-Americans who are here about the times when they were forced to the backs of buses, blacks-only washrooms, and separate schools. I can't pretend to know the emotions they are feeling as the inauguration approaches. What I can relate to is the emotion a younger generation is feeling. Not because we are Democrat or Republican or Independent, but because for the first time in our lifetimes, young people joined the political campaigns, knocked on doors, and worked phone banks. And it's because of what younger people have done over the past year or so that makes me proud. Not because they volunteered for a Democratic candidate, or a Republican candidate, but because for the first time I can remember, they really gave their time, heart and soul to something they believed in. Fitting on this "Day of Service" in D.C.
- Doug Whitmire
Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 -- 9:29 p.m.
I have been here for three days working 16-hour days, and for me it has been an honor and privilege to be able to share the personal stories of so many people who came to witness such a historical event. From the 82-year-old woman who had to pay to vote when she won the right to vote decades ago, to the four generations of one family I had the chance to talk with to, and a couple that came all the way from Amsterdam! They said they just wanted to see this magical moment!
I'm awed at the excitement and the hope that so many Americans are feeling on the eve of this historical event. I'm especially inspired by the young people who saved up their money to travel here just to share in the special moment. They are so hopeful about the future of this country, and that has motivated them to get involved in politics and have a strong desire to change the world.
One of the live shot locations for ABC7 is located in the Cannon Building on Capital Hill. It's where all the offices of the House of Representatives are located. I walked down the halls reading all the names of these legislators who make the laws that govern this country. In essence, every decision they make will affect each one of us! It is an amazing feeling to go behind the scenes and experience this educational lesson. The signs on the wall outside their offices say "Welcome, Please come in".
Getting into the Cannon building and to our actual live location on the balcony, is actually quite interesting. We had to go through intense security which is understandable. We have to walk under the building in the bowels of the basement. What we got to see gave a real insight of what goes on to conduct the business of the country. It's a whole other life underground; people work 24 hours, and it's like a city that never sleeps!
I have to share this particular moment when I went to do a story on King High School visiting the White House. Their concert and marching bands will be performing at the Illinois Ball. When I saw these students standing in front of the White House, the place where the next president who hails from Chicago will live, I was filled with so much pride. Just two weeks ago, they couldn't afford to make the trip. So, seeing them here it gave me a sense of hope to know that ordinary citizens reached into their pockets, even though this country is experiencing a recession, to make a way for these students to be here. They proudly recited their school motto about dedication and determination. It was something to see!
Then, moments later, I found David Axelrod, the man who stood with Barack Obama during his campaigning and is now the senior White House advisor. His assistant said that he couldn't do an interview, but Mr. Axelrod politely said "Yes, I will do the interview with Cheryl!" So, with the backdrop of the White House we walked at a brisk pace, and he answered everything from what the President-elect will say in his inauguration speech to how personal this historical moment is for him. He was gracious with his time as he rushed to attend the 'We Are One' concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
I will conclude this blog by saying that this has been an incredible experience, and it has been made even more special because of the fantastic and professional crew that I'm working with. They are incredible!!
- Cheryl Burton
Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 -- 6:15 p.m.
Finding food. Who thought two simple words would mean so much? They do to us. We have spent the last hour trying to find a place to eat dinner and one where it won't take an hour to get in. We still haven't found that place, but we have settled on the number one news staple: pizza. Ah, the basic food group.
- Doug Whitmire
Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 -- 10:50 a.m.
We have a jam packed day planned. First up, Cheryl Burton will interview Cheryl Jackson , the president of the Chicago Urban League. Jackson is a long-time friend and neighbor of President-elect Barack Obama. After that, we plan to find several Chicago area students who will be taking pictures in front of the White House and then we will talk to a die hard Obama volunteer who has produced several videos for the Inaugural Balls for free. The weather has warmed up, but we are told there will be another cold snap on Inauguration day. You can feel the excitement in the air as the car port at hotel is swamped with people checking in and attending Inauguration Sunday brunches.
- Jason Knowles
Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 -- 7:11 p.m.
It is hard to complain about the cold after what Chicago has experienced lately, but I am pretty sure my toes are partially frostbitten. I was just at our work area on the national mall and realized I had to get back to our other location near the Capitol. Doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize that cabs in this town, this weekend, are extremely hard to come by. So, I had no choice but to hoof it. Temperatures are in the single digits tonight. So, I am thawing now that I've made it. On top of it all, Capitol Hill is actually on top of a hill. As to not sound like my parents when they tell stories of how they walked to school in the cold, uphill, both ways as children; I feel their pain. So, do my toes.
- Doug Whitmire
Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 -- 2:57 p.m.
Traffic is already starting to increase significantly. It's a huge challenge to get from one location the other to shoot stories then edit them. I'm heading to the ABC News Washington bureau now, and cars are crawling through the Hill and Georgetown. Cabs are hard to find. Police presence is increasing dramatically. The weather is still cold, but it is now stopping people from coming to the National Mall to see the preps and the set up. Everyone just wants to be a part of something big, and they don't care if they have tickets or not. They just want to be here and say they came. One woman I talked to from Naperville who lives here now says about five people are cramming into her 700-square-foot apartment.
- Jason Knowles
Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 -- 11:39 a.m.
We have all seen the mouse in the maze trying to get to the piece of cheese at the end. We now know how that mouse feels. After our live reports, we have to go through a basement corridor under the Cannon office building to get out to the street to make our way back to our hotel. The basement is a long and winding maze with little signage to let us know where our piece of cheese (our ride) is. We did find it...this time.
- Doug Whitmire
Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 -- 6:19 p.m. Chicago time
We have been in the nation's capital less than 12 hours and there is already an electricity in the air. The city seems poised for Tuesday's inauguration, but more so for the millions of people who will flood the District over the next 48 hours. I spoke with an employee of a carryout near our hotel who tells me bars and restaurants will be open all hours of the night over the next five days to cater to the crowds. A nation in a recession, but a nation's capital ready for a recession rescue. Just getting around town is already difficult. It took us 20 minutes to go four blocks earlier this evening and the big crowds are not even here yet.
- Doug Whitmire
Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 -- 6:16 p.m. Chicago time
Well we made it! We saw people on the flight to the nation's capital with President -Elect Barack Obama T- shirts and pins on their jackets.
It's frigid but nothing compared to the negative temperatures in Chicago. The traffic is already heavy and we can tell that people are already descending on D.C.
Me and a photographer Derrick Robinson are staying at a hotel in Alexandria and the rest of the crew is in Georgetown. The rooms are amazing although we won't be seeing much of them.
I picked up the piles of credentials today and we had a moment to grab dinner at a place called Zed's. It is a quaint Ethiopian dining spot in Georgetown.
Now we are off to our live location so we can bring you a special story about some Chicago residents' passion to travel to the Inauguration on a huge bus trip.
- Jason Knowles
Friday, Jan. 16, 2009 -- 1:26 p.m. Chicago time
So the ABC7 team just arrived in Washington, DC and already the logistics of the large crowds coming here for the inauguration are affecting us. One of Cheryl Burton's bags is mia as are both of the bags belonging to producer Jason Knowles. Not the best way to start our days here, but we are looking at it as a minor bump in the road.
- Doug Whitmire