By Amanda Costikyan Jones
WASHINGTON – One stand-up comic said he was there hoping to get some new material. Three Japanese tourists left after they found out they were not in the line for a tour of the Capitol.
But many more of the hardy hundreds who braved a freezing drizzle to line up for seats at the impeachment trial Thursday said they were there hoping to witness history.
“If you could have been at the impeachment of Andrew Johnson for 15 minutes, wouldn’t you have gone?” asked Mark Clayton, 22, of Mount Vernon, Va.
Clayton was one of two dozen or so brave souls who were already in line at 9:30 a.m., three-and-a-half hours before opening arguments were scheduled to begin. He described himself and the others in line as “the hard-core.
“Most of the people that were in line with us when we started out are not here,” Clayton said. Many, he said, left in disgust when they learned they would only be allowed to stay in the Senate gallery for 15 minutes at a time during the trial.
As Clayton shook snow from his camouflage poncho, his neighbor in line commented, “Masochism is alive in America.”
First in line was Allan Goodwin, 32, of Centreville, Va., who arrived at 5:20 a.m. with a friend.
“I got food and clothes, warm, bundly clothes,” said Goodwin, the stand-up comic.
Although he conceded he might pick up something new for his comedy routine, he, too, cited history as his main reason for queuing up.
“This doesn’t happen all the time,” Goodwin said.
By afternoon, the atmosphere in line had altered. The little cluster of rugged history-watchers who stuck it out for hours had been replaced by a mass of tourists and families, and the line was moving at a moderate clip.
George Washington University graduate student Adam Vogelzang, 22, of Silver Spring, did not have class Thursday afternoon and said he had come to the Capitol “just to say that I saw it.”
Like most of the afternoon crowd, he had been waiting about 90 minutes and was growing frustrated as Capitol Police admitted just 10 or 15 people at a time. He watched as the three people beside him gave up and ducked under the ice-encrusted barrier to leave.
“It’s only the second time [in history],” said Vogelzang of the impeachment proceedings. “I’m going to try to stick it out.”
Chris Boisha, 8, of King George, Va., knew all the rules.
“No taking notes inside the gallery … and if I were only three years younger, I wouldn’t be allowed to go inside,” he said.
His mother, Judy, had pulled Chris and his older sister out of school for the occasion, and he knew why. “This is history,” he said.
Monica Landfair and Angela Matthews cut classes at West Springfield, Va., High School so they could get in line about 10 a.m.
“We’re sick,” they joked, complaining that they couldn’t get an excused absence for the trial.
They were among the first spectators to get into the Senate gallery, after three hours standing in line.
By 2 p.m., they were already on their way out of the chamber after a brief stay, but their enthusiasm had not diminished. It was so much fun, they said, that they planned to return later in the day.