One thing that I am awed by is the small private moments people have in reaction to large public events. Just after September 11th, I was up at the farm where we stored things for our architectural salvage business, when I saw that the tenants had hung a flag over the barn doors. No one would see it but them and us, but they had made the effort in honour of those who had died.
Today, I had a similar experience. The historic train taking the President-Elect to Washington would be coming through Baltimore, and the President-Elect would be stopping here to make a speech at the War Memorial Plaza downtown. I am not one for huge crowds, but wanted to be a part of this event. When I knew the President-Elect and his entourage had left the Plaza and were going back to board the train, I headed out to find a quiet place to watch the train pass.
Everywhere I tried to stop and watch was crawling with police, so I turned down a small road and found a place to stop. If you've ever seen The Wire, you have an idea of what kind of neighbourhood this was... There were a few other people there and I had the dog with me, so I figured I'd be safe.
I ended up standing next to an older African-American women who told me that she grew up in at the end of the street where we were standing. She remembered standing in the exact same spot, waiting and watching for the train carrying Robert F. Kennedy to Washington after his funeral in New York. She said that she never thought she'd see the day that our country elected a black president.
We waited about 45 minutes in the bitter cold for the train to come by. It moved very slowly, much more so than the usual Amtrak rate of speed. As it went by, the small group cheered and waved and honked their car horns. The train blew its horn at us. It was all over in less than a minute.
After the train moved out of sight, I turned to look at the woman I'd been speaking with and she had tears streaming down her face. I am glad I made this little effort to witness this moment in history.
Photos: The Baltimore Sun, except for the one of Connor.