It was a new beginning, but without the buzzing crowds, cheers and happy tears of the previous time, four years ago.
At this time in January 2009, inauguration-watching parties were happening all over the region.
Four years ago, crowd of several thousand people gathered around Independence Mall, standing in rapt attention on the frozen lawn as they watched the ceremony on huge televisions. An overflow crowd packed WHYY’s civic space, whooping and applauding lines in the new president’s speech.
Today, much smaller groups of dedicated supporters marked the occasion by watching the event live together.
On Independence Mall, you could find no giant screen, no spectators braving the cold to witness President Obama take the oath of office a second time. But at the north end of the Mall, inside the Constitution Center, a crowd of about 200 people watched the event in Kirby Auditorium.
Philadelphian Yusuf Wilson brought his family, saying he wanted to be with other people, experiencing the moment in a significant place. For him, this inauguration is just as important as the first one.
“I worked on both campaigns, and this one was just as exciting as the first one,” said WIlson. “This is more of a validation, a continuation of what the first term was about, so this is good stuff.”
Philadelphian Jen Coker shared Wilson’s sentiments, agreeing that this inauguration was even more exciting than the one four years ago: “The first time, it was almost as if it was a fluke, but now we know that the people are really behind this president, being the first African American president.”
Coker took her three grandchildren to the Constitution Center to witness the inauguration, which she sees as part history-making event, part civic lesson.
The Constitution Center offered free admission to mark both Martin Luther King Day and the inauguration.