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Posted at 7:00 PM ET, 01/18/2009

We Are One: Voices From the Crowd

By Julia Beizer

17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW -- I was a couple minutes late walking down 14th Street to the We Are One concert on the Mall today. But it wasn't the sound of music that filled my ears once I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue; it was the sound of good old American commerce.

"Obama-Obama-Obama buttons. One for $5, but buy four and you get one free."

"We are One T-shirts. That's the name of the show today, ladies. We got all sizes -- just $5."

"Don't forget your official Obama flags. Obama flags right here."

We are one giant mass of people. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Jostling into position amid the crowd today was sort of like being on a moving walkway to nowhere. Trains of people snaked through the throng toward the Lincoln -- "We do this at the club all the time," cheered one girl as she dragged her friends toward the front -- but most of us just stayed put. "It ain't gonna lighten up. We just gonna be bumpin' and grindin' the whole way," said one of my neighbors with a laugh.

You couldn't see much from where I was standing -- certainly not the stage on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Jumbotrons, which ran on a slight delay from the actual concert, were our version of the show. "Who's that singing?" someone asked. "That's Legend," someone answered, acknowledging R&B singer John. People cheered when the camera panned to Obama ("Yo! I want to see Obama dance," said a neighbor). Chuckled among themselves when they heard Jack Black trying to give a serious speech about Lincoln ("I just can't hear him be serious. I just can't!"). Shrieked when Usher took the stage. And sang along when Garth Brooks belted out "American Pie" and (improbably) "Shout."

But of all the brilliant overheard lines from today's show, my favorite was spoken when the organizers brought two bald eagles on stage. The birds lifted their wings to soar, but were strapped tightly to their handlers' arms. "It's so sad," said the woman behind me. "Here's our tethered symbol of freedom!"

After Beyonce closed the show with "America the Beautiful," the crowds filtered toward Constitution. Past Obama posters, perfume, T-shirts and hats.

For more on today's show, check out fellow Guru David Malitz's review in tweets over at Post Rock.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | January 18, 2009; 7:00 PM ET
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It was great to be there. I met people who came from California, Texas, Ohio, New Jersey and Holland. I only had to catch the Metro from Maryland. It was a wonderful show- even if I saw it on the Jumbotron- I was there! And seeing Jamie Foxx "do" Obama doing his speech from Grant Park- and seeing Obama laugh was beautiful.

Posted by: AndrearKline | January 18, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to all those who would stand in the cold. I wouldn't.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 18, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was a great concert. I was about a third of the way down the reflecting pool, so I couldn't see the stage that well, and my 5'3" height put me on tiptoes the whole time to catch glimpses of the jumbotrons. But the atmosphere was great, and people forgot about the cold once things got going. I'm watching it on TV right now in my warm apartment, but I have to say, being there and singing along was pretty darn awesome and I'm glad I toughed out the long wait for it!

Posted by: Jen11 | January 18, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me while I puke.

Posted by: birvin9999 | January 18, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me while I puke.

Sorry you feel this way when history is being made. I suspect that you have no appreciation for what is unfolding before your eyes. I am a 65 year old white woman who joins many in saying I saw the marches and beatings and savagery from the 60s. I am pleased to live to see the day when content of character out weighs the color of ones skin. I feel sorry that you do not share in this dream come true. Perhaps one day you shall understand it. I hope so.

Posted by: patisok | January 18, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Is there a reason the audio when out when Gene Robinson gave the invocation? Even worse, when I get home to watch it on HBO, it's been cut. Seems odd that when Elmo is on the jumbotron, there was no technical issues, but when the gay bishop goes on stage, the speakers goes quiet.

Posted by: lloydjason1 | January 18, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Few tickets still available for and also includes FREE parking less than a block from the White House. Event takes place on the 20th from 7pm-1am. Great line-up.For tickets, please call 571-285-1632.

Posted by: sikh1 | January 18, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I could have stood that long in the cold, but bless your hearts, those of you who did. This is a momentous occasion - not dampened by the few Scrooge's in the crowd who (pardon the mixed metaphors) do not believe. We are going to need all the belief, enthusiasm, and creativity we can muster together to get through this. The alternative to community is what drives people who fear the future to buy more and more and more guns and ammunition. It is sooooo past time for us to come together. My prayers are with us all.

Posted by: maggieww | January 18, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

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