It's go time. 4 AM on Monday was the wake-up call, but by the time the front desk rang the phone, I had already been up for twenty minutes. I had carefully packed everything before going to bed and had laid all of my uniform pieces out, so I didn't forget anything and everything I did take would make it through the Secret Service security check. It didn't take me long to be ready to board the bus. We boarded the buses at 5:15 AM and headed to Arlington for our breakfast stop. Try to get your head around orchestrating breakfast for over 214 people. It was hectic. I was one of the last to make it through the line for food and my dietary needs were not met by many things on the buffet line, so I took a few pancakes and a couple of bites of egg and that was it. We received a few announcements and a quick pep talk before getting back on the buses and heading to the Pentagon for our security check. We sat on the lot at the Pentagon for several minutes before being sent to our checkpoint. We left the buses and took everything with us through the line. We went through an airport style screening. I tucked everything I could in my trumpet case and sent it through the x-ray machine. I passed through the scanner and I was finished. Out the other end of the tent we gathered and walked to another parking lot where we were issued our official parade pass, this was where we knew we had passed the background screening. At this time the swearing in ceremony was beginning. The NPR coverage of the ceremony was being broadcast over speakers in the parking lots where we were. At this same time, our buses were being screened nearby, once they got clearance from the K-9 units, we were allowed to board. Once we were back on the bus, our newly appointed military escort delivered us a box of snacks (of a healthy variety) that we enjoyed as we listened to the ceremony. As we sat and ate, we heard the President take his oath of office, at which point the bus erupted in cheers. We were still sitting as the President gave his address afterwards, the bus was silent, everyone was listening closely, then it happened. In the President's address, he uttered the word "Stonewall" and the bus almost burst with elation. It was so loud most of us missed the rest of what he was saying in that part of his speech, which was directed at us. Luckily a few folks managed to hear most of what he said and relayed it to the rest of us. Again, the bus cheered, some tears were shed and we sat half in disbelief of what had been said. It was a huge moment and to share it with the people I was surrounded by, was just surreal. The next thing I can remember, we were underway, leaving the Pentagon, crossing the bridge, making our way past the memorials of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Jefferson. We were driving through history, quite literally passing those who made the speech we had just heard possible. As we cleared the memorials, the crowds on the streets started to grow. As we passed the crowds, they started to cheer and clap and wave at our buses. They had read what was on the front of our bus, a sign identifying us, The Lesbian and Gay Band Association. These are the moments I hadn't considered. I was so focused on performing for the President that I didn't really give a lot of thought to what that meant. I knew there would be a lot of eyes on us, but until we turned a corner and the crowds were 20-30 people deep did it really set in. We continued around until we were almost in front of the Washington Monument, our bus stopped and we were given the direction to leave the bus. We gathered only what we were taking on the parade route and formed two, very long, lines on the sidewalk. We waited here for several minutes until being directed to head towards the warming tent nearby. At this time we were strictly forbidden from playing our instruments. As we approached the tent, volunteers issued us a box lunch and perhaps most importantly pointed out the restrooms that were situated around the tent. At this point it felt like it had to be early afternoon, but I don't think it was even 10 AM. We stayed at the tent for hours before anything happened. Finally they started to call marching units to form and prepare for the parade, that was a great sign, but we were in the third unit, so we still had a long wait ahead of us. During the wait we were approached by many people who thanked us for being there and for doing what we were doing. These people were young and old, civilian and military, they were sincere and their faces lit up when they approached us. It really made me aware of the impact we were making, just by being there. Our group was the second largest in the parade, so when we formed outside the tent to warm up the only spot that could contain us was directly in the path of the Washington Monument. How I wished I had a camera. After our warm up, we were summoned back inside the tent to begin forming the third unit. As each element formed ahead of us and left the tent we cheered them on. Finally it was our turn, we formed our parade block and then crammed it out two very tiny doors. We stood outside the tent for about half an hour before we moved. When we did move, we headed a little farther up The Mall where we stood for what seemed like forever. We were standing next to a fence where people who had been near the Capitol for the ceremony were passing as they left. Many people stopped and asked us what LGBA stood for. Some were surprised when we told them and some seemed like they knew before they asked. Everyone was supportive and still more thanked us for being there. After many starts and stops, we finally joined the parade route. With the sun at our backs we marched towards the parade start point, under the watchful eyes of the sharp shooters perched on rooftops along the way. We had waited all day and it was almost time for our performance. We were no longer allowed access to our pockets, that meant we were really close. Things quieted down and soon all we heard was the sound of our feet hitting the street and the group behind us shout "Left, left". Next we saw the Civil Rights Movement float pull out in front of us, we made a left turn and passed a sign that signaled the start of the parade. The drum majors turned around and got us started, by the time we got halfway through Tonight (from West Side Story) we were passing larger and larger crowds. Our lines were tight and we sounded great. Once the parade starts, you never stop moving, you have to keep going and you have to keep playing. Remember, the sharp shooters! By the third or fourth song, the two full days of rehearsal caught up with me and my arms were on fire. My arms ached and burned, but I would not drop my horn angle, though I did pray for a few songs to end so that I could put my arms down for a few minutes. I also had to be careful not to blow my chops (it's a brass thing you may not understand, but you can't play loud and high forever, your face can't handle it) I had to pace myself. With a band of 214 people it is easy to lay low every now and then to rest up. Lucky for me, I had been here before and I could tell when we were getting close to the review stand where the President was. We made our left turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue and that is when things started to get interesting. Our plan was to play Tonight as we passed the President, but for whatever reason, that song started early and we were finishing it just as we approached the stand. And as we had practiced all day on Sunday, song 2 always comes after song 1, so immediately after we finished Tonight, we started Edge of Glory. Given the speech earlier in the day, it really felt more appropriate and that is the story I am sticking to. I looked up to start the song and realized I hadn't flipped my music and was still looking at Tonight, but it didn't matter, I just played Edge of Glory. Call it spontaneous memorization or recall or whatever, I more or less went on autopilot. I was playing the song, I was marching and the President was right there next to me. I couldn't believe it, no matter how much I tried to prepare myself for it, it was happening, he was there and he was moving and clapping his hands. It was amazing. And just like that, it was all over. The President was behind us, the crowds were behind us, the light as bright as the sun that was aimed in our faces was behind us. The song was over. It was almost silent again, the only sounds were feet hitting the ground, snare drum clicks and the sound of 214 people trying to catch their breath.
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