101: Working the Obama Inauguration

101: Working the Obama Inauguration

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Working the Obama Inauguration

It’s been sort of a whirlwind.

~Barack Obama

Sometimes everything comes together and you get to combine all the things you love in one day. That happened to me when my friends and I who work in our student-run emergency response service were given the chance to be volunteer EMTs at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Since I had worked on the Obama campaign and am very interested in government, this was a great opportunity to combine my interest in health care with my interest in politics. Plus it was a very exciting time in Washington and it was a privilege to be part of it all.

In December, all of the volunteers were trained to deal with various health crises that could arise on the big day. The training was impressive and comprehensive, and it was reassuring to see how officials from the DC police and other security agencies were paying attention to every detail. Luckily, we did not have to use most of what we were taught.

Inauguration Day came and we left Georgetown at four in the morning to reach our deployment location. We were then bussed to various locations in DC so that we could get to our first aid stations in time for the crowds to arrive.

Some people were assigned to the Capitol, a great spot, but we felt lucky too. We kept looking for the “aid tent” that we were assigned to, but we couldn’t find it. It turned out that we were assigned to City Hall — indoors! Our team was responsible for the people who were at viewing parties on all six floors of the Wilson Building, which houses Mayor Fenty and the city administration. We also aided spectators who came in from the cold, mainly children suffering from hypothermia.

We had been given ID cards that enabled us to circulate more freely than the general public during the ceremony and parade. It was very hard to move around Washington that day, but with our IDs we were able to pass all the security checkpoints and boundaries. That came in handy when we were walking to our station at the Wilson Building, because it is at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to everyone but uniformed personnel.

The ability to cross Pennsylvania Avenue came in handy at one point when I took care of a young boy with a fever and an ear infection whose parents were frantically trying to cross Pennsylvania Avenue to get their sick child back to their hotel. They had walked what felt like miles to them, unsuccessfully trying to cross, and I was able to show my ID and get the barricades moved to escort them across the street and get them back to their hotel.

I know I made a contribution on Inauguration Day, but I felt a little guilty about being warm, and having a great viewing spot, while other people stood in the cold for hours and could barely see anything. It was really a lucky break.

The best part of the day for me was interacting with such a large number of patients. Being an EMT normally involves a lot of waiting around — some days there are only one or two calls in an eight-hour shift — so I enjoyed all the patient contact. It was also great working with all the EMTs who came in from so many other jurisdictions — we are all trained differently, and as a student I learned a lot from the more experienced EMTs, as well as from all the nurses and physicians who headed up our team that day.

When my assignment ended at six in the evening, I was exhausted, but thrilled to have been a part of such an important and inspiring event, and relieved that it had all gone so well. I made my way back to Georgetown and finally caught up on my sleep.

~Ella Damiano

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