Nicelys attend Inauguration Witnessing History

Jeff Nicely, of Bryant, joins the crowd at the nation’s capitol on Inauguration Day Jan. 20. -
Jeff Nicely, of Bryant, joins the crowd at the nation’s capitol on Inauguration Day Jan. 20.
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WASHINGTON D.C. — Two Arlingtonians, Jeff and Melinna Nicely, who live north of town in Bryant, got more seriously involved in the election season this year than ever before, and it all culminated with a trip to Washington D.C. for the inauguration last week.

Melinna Nicely works at the Arlington Library and Jeff Nicely recently retired from Housing Hope. Indeed, he retired just in time to help the Democratic Party campaign for Barack Obama, including opening a Get Out the Vote campaign office in downtown Arlington for the last couple of weeks before the election. Jeff is also known in the community as a blues musician who plays the blues on harmonica whenever the opportunity arises. He joined fellow musicians at an election night celebration in Arlington, and enjoyed a chance to play a few tunes with a D.C. funk and blues band while there.

The Nicelys enjoyed a place to stay with Jeff’s brother and family in D.C., visiting another brother in Philadelphia on the way.

On Inauguration Day, they left the house at 5:30 a.m., all bundled up for the frigid temperatures.

“With layers of gloves, scarves and hugs from brothers, we headed to the subway,” Melinna said. Passing military police at every corner along the way, the Nicelys found “down under” a very packed train, but the crowd was mellow and inspired to be traveling together to this special occasion. They found the appropriate gate for their tickets, about midway from the podium and the rear of the crowd, and waited there from 6:30 - 8:30 a.m.

“As the sun rose, our freezing feet and noses soaked in the warmth of collective pride. We were impressed by the outbursts of unity with joyful chants like ‘Yes we can,” and “O-BAM-A.’”

The Nicelys landed in D.C. in time to visit a Sunday Farmers Market and the pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

“The mood reflected the concert’s theme, ‘We Are One,’ with only a minor amount of confusion as approximately 400,000 gathered for this musical celebration intended to warm up the crowd for the formal ceremonies on Tuesday,” Jeff said.

“Tears of joy, relief and inspiration were a common theme during the week,” Melinna Nicely said.

The feeling was expressed especially well by Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” with a large choir shouting out behind him, Nicely said.

Springsteen and other stars performed from the “jumbo-trons” set up under the Washington Monument and were largely visible to the overflow crowd — unless you’re under 5-foot 2-inches like Melinna, Jeff said.

Following the music, the massive departing crowd indicated the spirit of the week — a cheery, polite and patient mass of people, they said.

“The moment’s significance seemed to ward off the cold,” she added.

During their long walk home after the concert, they happened onto an impromptu fast-moving street performance by a gospel song and dance group. Later they attended an old hometown reunion at the “Bring Ohio Back” reception, where they mingled with people from Jeff’s state of origin.

On Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, they went to pick up their tickets at Congressman Rick Larsen’s office. They thought it would be an easy subway ride to the Cannon House Office Building, and were planning to visit the Smithsonian afterward. Instead, they spent time moving very slowing from the subway station and waited outdoors for three hours. Finally inside they chatted briefly with Larsen and thawed their fingers.

The Nicely were especially impressed by the diversity of the roughly 1.5 million people on The Capitol Mall.

Standing midway between the podium and the reflecting pond at the rear, and in spite of the trees obstructing their view, they were especially moved when the new president recited the oath of office, “I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear …”

“More tears were shed in reflection of the efforts of our fathers who advocated for civil rights, decency and hope,” Melinna said.

“The hope for a truly accessible and accountable government was tempered only by the sobering challenges we have been called upon to address together,” Jeff said.

“We enjoyed spending this chilly day with one-and-a-half million of our close and dedicated friends.”

Upon return to Arlington, the Nicelys are now pondering what to do with this renewed call to civic action.

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