Washington – the town where the sirens never sleep

I was standing by a couple in the crowd at today’s concert at the National Mall in Washington. The woman turned to the guy and said, ‘this is awesome’. To which he replied, ‘yeah it’s awesome’. Concert photos here.

Maybe not their most eloquent moment, but I could relate to them being short on words.

There’s also been so much said about Barack Obama’s inauguration that’s it’s difficult to know where to turn. The US networks are using the word ‘historic’ a historic amount and there’s no detail of the build-up to Tuesday that’s being missed. And this Presidency is so improbable that it’s still taking some getting used to.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts I’ve had since being here.

I had just arrived from the airport and was pottering in my hotel room. The Obama Express, as the networks were calling it, was coming into Union Station and I had the live coverage on in the background. Off stepped the President-Elect and his family and before long they were being swept away from the station in a motorcade.

I wasn’t paying much attention and carried on pottering when a chorus of sirens grew louder and louder outside. I walked to the window and pulled back the curtain in time to see lots of police cars, then even more large black cars and vans, then more police cars and an ambulance or two. They were all moving at pace and it was all over like that.

It was a strange feeling though to think the epicentre of this massive story which we’ve all followed for months had just fleetingly swept past me. It looked as it always does on the TV just minutes before, and then whoosh it was right outside.

Needless to say, I’m back to watching from a far now. Today at the concert, I’d have need binoculars like these guys to see him.

I was watching Fox News Sunday earlier and one of their pundits made an interesting point. He said he felt like this inauguration is interrupting a presidency that’s already underway.

Partly because the Bush administration has been very co-operative, partly because the Obama team has had few problems with the confirmation hearings, and partly because the urgent need for a stimulus package has meant that Mr Obama has already started putting it together.

There’s been plenty of talk of one President at a time (though more on foreign policy than on the economy).

I wonder if the occasional awkwardness of this situation would easily be resolved by simply pulling the transition time right down to three or four weeks.

Do you think that would work? And would America and the rest of us benefit?

Let’s not forget the wait used to be even longer so it’s not like this was set in stone by the Founding Fathers.

Like baying wolves they go all night and day. A street no longer seems right unless there’s at least one vehicle with flashing lights.

I’ve yet to work out if there have been some problems, or this is just their way of letting us know that this town is locked down. Either way, they’re clearly taking no chances and that’s understandable. It’s a nightmare if you’re in a car, but on foot I’ve seen nothing more difficult to navigate than a very crowded street. That may change come Tuesday though.

4 Responses to “Washington – the town where the sirens never sleep”

  1. 1 Jennifer
    January 19, 2009 at 14:41



  2. 2 Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite
    January 19, 2009 at 14:44

    Thank you, Ros Atkins, for a focused view of Washington before the Inauguration. No viewer or radio listener as distanced as Eastern Europe can have a good sense of what is going on these days in America without the participants’ word. I was overwhelmed by “the town where sirens never sleep” and I had been to Washington, D.C. Ros Atkins has coveyed the feeling of expectation on the people’s level and a certain emptiness on the upper levels very accurately, which may be the true reality, especially if we remember what Professor Brenner said in his article “Who Is Obama…” in ‘The Pakistani Spectator’, which I received through the BBC links on the 27th of January 2009. We do expect something at the time of events like this, but this time there is some void somewhere.
    Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite

  3. January 19, 2009 at 16:37

    Sirens never sleep,
    leaders also never sleep,
    White House,
    Oval House,
    Capital Hill,
    always awake.

  4. January 23, 2009 at 10:46

    Russia had to face shamefull defeat in Afghanistan,
    and after that America became superpower ,single superpower in the world,
    in this way its duties,priorities increased and with this globle change which gone to American’s favoure and with that change sirens also awaken.

    9/11 occured,
    the occurence taken place in side the land of single superpower so strong reaction was indispensable,
    invaded Afghanistan,with that war sirens once gain awakened,
    weapons of mass-destruction,was a issue for Bush administration,they wanted to remove all expected dengers so it was also invaded and the strike sirens awakened.

    Iranian neclear issue was become the reason for more sirens.

    Now administration has changed there are chances of sigh of relief for sirens under the leadership of newly elected president Barak Obama.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: