Washington, DC—Flint physician, business owner and community advocate Dr. Bobby Mukkamala attended President Joe Biden’s inauguration as Congressman Dan Kildee’s personal guest and witnessed the historic moment firsthand–but he was worried.
“The atmosphere for everybody was a little bit tense going through the unusual security for the inauguration as well as the presence of National Guard troops, military vehicles and military weapons everywhere within the city…I myself wrote a note to my kids that went something like, ‘If I don’t come home…’”
Two weeks prior, pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to suppress the congressional Electoral Vote count that would confirm Joe Biden’s win.
Nervousness surrounding the incident still lingered amongst crowd members at the inauguration, Mukkamala said.
Once through security, the energy seemed to return to normal, Mukkamala said, adding that this was his first inauguration, so he had nothing to compare it to.
He said Kildee invited him, “as a symbolic thank you to all of the healthcare workers that have sacrificed so much during this past year. It was not because of anything in particular that I have done but because of the symbolism of having a healthcare worker accompany him to this momentous occasion,” Mukkamala said.
Performances by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks were “flawless,” he said. But the real show stopper was 23-year-old poet and activist Amanda Gorman, who made history as the youngest known inaugural poet.
“It was pin drop silence. Up to that point, a lot of people, myself included, were trying to get the perfect picture. When she started talking, I took a picture…but as I started to listen I put my phone down… It was so poetic and moving. I think that was the general mood and [it] went from being a spectator to being an active listener, instead of trying to capture the moment on a camera,” Mukkamala said.
The crowd was small due to COVID-19 regulations. Seats were placed six feet apart, except for attendees and their guests, who were allowed to sit next to one another. Mukkamala said he estimates there were less than 2,000 people in attendance.
“It was certainly fewer than a high school football game around [Flint]…The National Mall was empty,” he said.
After Biden’s speech, Mukkamala said he left feeling “hopeful,” like there were brighter days ahead. But as he boarded a train back to the airport, he looked up and saw a Trump sign in an apartment window.
“There was just an immediate reality check about the chasm that does exist that needs to be bridged…There’s a lot of work to be done. I mean, a speech is great, but it doesn’t create the bridge. It’s just more of the marching orders for the bridge to be built,” he said. “And, so, I’m looking forward to watching that bridge being built to [close] the philosophical divide that separates a lot of people.”