While his ride never came to a stop, President-Elect Barack Obama, with Joe Biden by his side, smiled, waved and even interacted with a few people, which was good enough for the thousand or so gathered at the Edgewood train station who had waited hours in the stinging cold Saturday to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be president aboard the train that would eventually take him to Washington D.C. for Tuesday’s inauguration.
At just about 3 p.m. Saturday, after a few toots of its horn announced its presence, the Obama Express, crawling along at about 1 mph rather than its normal 50 mph travel speed, cruised into view of the Edgewood MARC station. After enduring hours of freezing temperatures and several false alarms, the crowd grew eager and anxious as the train cars continued to crawl along.
By the time the crowd realized it was finally happening, it was already nearly over.
On the last car on the long train (not officially a caboose – as I later learned on CNN), Obama, Biden and a handful of others appeared on a platform and a roar went up from the crowd. It was over after only a few minutes, but Obama made the most of that time: smiling, waving, pointing and even apparently addressing one supporter who was standing as close to the tracks as permitted.
And then they were gone, leaving the hundreds and hundreds of supporters with wide grins on their faces as they trudged back to their vehicles in the cold.
But before getting to Edgewood, the Obama Express first had to pass by a few other train stations as it departed Wilmington, Delaware after picking up Biden.
Jason Neidig, an Aberdeen Police officer and Perryville resident, took his sister to watch the Obama Express roll through Cecil County on its way into Harford:
I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to brave the cold temperatures, get in my cold car, and drive a mile to the Perryville AMTRAK train station. Many things were running through my mind: How many people will be there? Will I get a parking space? Will I get close enough to see something? Should I take a camera? At 1:10PM, I jumped in the shower and I was out the door by 1:35. Off to the train station, with my sister who is visiting from Pennsylvania.
Finding a parking spot was really not an issue. Parked in an old bank parking lot. We walked about a quarter of a mile to the train station that was slowly starting to fill up. At 2:00PM, we were told the train just left Wilmington. By 2:30, it was passing through Perryville. Before that though, “dummy” trains got everyone excited and the blood flowing. So cold, but so warm we all were. Above, Secret Service hilacopters, and the US Army. Police all over. The whistle blew, the train rolled by at about 40mph. Just long enough to see a hand covered in a white glove waving. Just long enough to snap two photographs of this historic event.
When it was all over with, I had to tell myself that was Barack Obama waving. Really, I knew it was probably a good chance it was not. I had to remind myself, I have training in dignitary protection. Barack was definatly in another one of those train cars. I had to ask myself which one? I told myself, the last one and that was him that waived.
This was so exciting. I really wish he would have stopped. Then again, the cold was now hitting me so I am glad he didn’t. People yelling and screaming, I cannot wait to tell my children that I was part of true American History.
Sorry Jason, a video replay of the event shows both Obama and Biden went gloveless as they cruised slowly past the crowd gathered at the Edgewood train station. Then again, Obama seems like the type of hands-on guy who might just take off his gloves and endure a few minutes of frost bite for his supporters.
Here are a few other random anecdotes from the scene in Edgewood on Saturday:
– The Edgewood High School parking lot had filled to, and beyond, capacity by 1:15 p.m. Most resourceful visitors were parking at nearby churches or lining the streets of adjacent neighborhoods. Although the system seemed to be working smoothely, many people bypassed the shuttle system entirely and just hoofed it on the mile walk to the MARC train station.
– The hawkers were out in force. One guy, with a Chicago White Sox hat on was selling cotton candy and “Obama memorabilia.” Others sold buttons that must have been custom made for the Obama Express train trip, posters, and flags. A few local entrepreneurs opened their driveways and parking lots to visitors to use at $10 a vehicle.
– The Secret Service security check was a well-oiled machine. Empty your pockets of everything metallic, don’t worry about emptying your purse or bag because officers would open and go through its contents for you, unzip your jacket, and walk through the metal detector. The line moved quickly until about 2:30 p.m. when the security check got clogged up with late arrivals.
– In the security line, a Department of Transportation employee said no one really knew where Obama was going to be and if he was going to stop until the very end. He said 36 hours earlier, no one knew much of anything and that late word was that the train would slow down for the crowd greet at the Perryville train station. In the end, he said, Secret Service decided it liked the layout of the Edgewood station better from a security standpoint.
– There weren’t as many elected officials or ‘local celebrities’ as I thought there might be. I saw Del. B. Dan Riley and Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie, but that was about it. Of course, I didn’t venture inside the nearby Clarence’s Taste of New Orleans restaurant either – where Guthrie was seen and law enforcement seemed to be hanging out.
– There was a guy with a dog that was wearing sunglasses and a guy brazenly wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jacket, but they seemed to be the only “infirm” attendees in the crowd – which was a relief.
– The first time one of the Amtrak Acela trains whipped by at about 125 mph, a cheer came up through the crowd and people starting snapping pictures and waving their signs around. This happened several times before people caught on.
– On a personal note, I’ve heard people naysay and criticize this inaugural train ride for its cost and zeal, but I feel I have to point out that the Obama presidency is about much more than politics. Sure, he’s a Democrat and you might not like his tax programs or his Cabinet appointements, but there weren’t thousands of people lined up at train stations along the East Coast this weekend because they support Obama’s proposed policies. This is a social and cultural victory that overshadows any political win.
More photos coming soon. Did anyone else out there snap photos of the Obama Express?