Stephanie Radzyminski, president of the Bradley County (Tenn.) Republicans Women's Club, ducked inside the Capitol Grille steakhouse just before 1:30 p.m. with a smile and announced she was going to watch Bush's inaugural address on TV.
"This day is about as great as the day my daughter was born," she said. "We're getting to share a part of history."
Radzyminski had been waiting with her daughter at Pennsylvania Avenue and Fifth Street NW, and had $150 tickets to sit in the bleachers and watch the parade. It was a corner full of anti-Bush demonstrators.
Radzyminski came out of the steakhouse after the address wearing the same big smile. But she rolled her eyes and whispered, "There's mostly protesters in there."
An hour later, Caren Cannon of Falls Church was sitting on a planter at Sixth Street and Pennsylvania, unable to get into an all-standing area despite an invitation because of the crowds of demonstrators. "They didn't have security like this back in the '80s," Cannon said.
By this time, Bush's motorcade was about to leave the Capitol. It would pass spectators wearing peace signs at John Marshall Park and glide past the Newseum construction site. The president would have been too far away to read posters of old newspapers describing the inaugurations of Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
The president's own speech addressing national vulnerability and liberty and how to combat tyranny with freedom would have just left his lips as his entourage headed northwest past happy members of the Chicago Police Department, posted near Seventh Street NW. "It's zero degrees at home right now," Lt. John Blake said. "This is balmy."
Shortly after 3 p.m., Brenda Fortmayer and her husband, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Carroll Fortmayer, finally made it through two nearby checkpoints to arrive on the south side of Pennsylvania in front of the Justice Department at Ninth Street NW. It had taken them and their group of 110 ROTC cadets nearly four hours.
Fortmayer, 57, and her husband, 61, wanted to sit in the bleachers, which were virtually empty. But a volunteer turned them away because they had no tickets.
"Look at it, it's empty, it's a waste and everybody has to stand behind," said Carroll Fortmayer. So they stood there and not long after, at 3:21 p.m., the president's limousine drove slowly by. There was a smattering of applause from the deserted bleachers. "The crowd is a lot sparser than four years ago," Brenda Fortmayer said. "It's the cold weather and the security."
Minutes later, after the motorcade passed, the Fortmayers were allowed to sit in the bleachers.
At 14th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, people booed. Someone threw an orange, but it didn't keep the president from waving.
By the time the procession rounded the corner onto 15th Street NW, members of the Gautier High School entourage were feeling just a little impatient.
They had raised $50,000 in two weeks from the community to send 121 students, 34 chaperones and three band directors 1,000 miles north, and they had endured up to a half-dozen phone calls a day from inauguration planners informing them of last-minute changes.
They were going to be next to the White House, then they were a few blocks away. They were going to have 1,600 square feet of space, then they had less. They needed to get photo IDs for all students in two days. And then they weren't needed.
"It's been like a roller coaster," said bassoonist Kelly Staup, a 17-year-old senior. "But I'd do anything to be here. I look at all the good things, and I block out the bad."
Which is exactly what the president asked them to do.
"You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile and evil is real and courage triumphs," he said in a plea to the nation's youngest citizens. "Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself, and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character."