2009-01-29 / News

Jamestowners at the Inauguration

Newly sworn-in President Barack Obama, top, addresses the crowd at the Inauguration. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate Photo Studio Newly sworn-in President Barack Obama, top, addresses the crowd at the Inauguration. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate Photo Studio Mom-daughter day

Thanks to Congressman Kennedy and the people in his office, my 10-year-old daughter, Emily, and I were lucky enough to attend the inauguration of our 44th President.

While we were prepared practically (warm clothes, Power Bars, solid game plan) and mentally (long waits, poor views, no bathroom) in the end it was luck combined with the goodness of other Americans that made our day so incredible.

6 a.m.: We started the day filled with anticipation and anxiousness as we got on the metro in Virginia. It was very cold and still dark. Emily and I were extremely lucky, and got seats on the train, which took almost two hours to get into D.C. An adorable 6-year-old girl from Philadelphia kept us entertained through the long trip. We got off at Judiciary Square, the stop our "purple" tickets said was closest to the security gate.

8 a.m.: Fear and frustration set in as we tried in vain to figure out where we were supposed to be to get through security. For the next two hours, we moved from packedcrowd to packed-crowd, trying to guess if this was the actual line. There were many times I thought we would never get in, and a couple of times I thought I was about to be knocked down, but we persevered, and were lucky enough to have guessed right.

Sally Schott, left, lifts her daughter so she will have a better view of the swearing in ceremony at the Inauguration. Sally Schott, left, lifts her daughter so she will have a better view of the swearing in ceremony at the Inauguration. 10 a.m.: The relief I felt in getting through the gate was so strong I almost burst into tears. The crowd, now on the other side, looked daunting as people pressed into the fence trying to inch their way closer to the opening. We sped through security and rushed to claim our spot in the purple section, which was to the left of the Capitol building. Of the estimated 2,000,000 people there, we were probably in the front 100,000. We didn't anticipate the tree blocking our view of the lone jumbotron, but luckily, that was countered with a clear view of the podium where the swearing in would take place. We met Kyle and Rebecca, a brother and sister in their 20s from California, and their heartfelt enthusiasm and excitement of being part of this enormous event were infectious.

~ Jenna and Anthony Morton-Aiken ~ Jenna and Anthony Morton-Aiken 12 p.m.: When it came time for Obama to take the oath of office, I gave Emily a boost (with the help of our new friend Kyle) so she could see this amazing moment in history. The joy and hope and relief of all the people around us were palpable as Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States. People cried and hugged strangers. They whooped and they hollered. We all looked at each other in astonishment; we couldn't believe we were so lucky to have been part of this inconceivable experience.

2 p.m.: Luck continued to follow us. We leisurely walked to Union Station, stopping along the way to look at the crazy things street vendors were hawking. After passing up the Barack Obama air-freshener, we found two seats on the metro, and headed to the airport. A text I sent a friend at 2:09 p.m. that summed it all up. "What a day!"

~ Hilarie Aubois ~ Hilarie Aubois ~ Sally Schott

Celebrating from abroad

We attended the Democrats Abroad Ball at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, England. There were over 1,000 Americans and Brits in attendance for dinner and dancing, and we had a wonderful time. It's been a long eight years for those of us abroad, and the night was one of hope, celebration and new beginnings.

We watched clips from the Inauguration ceremony and were proud to celebrate with the many volunteers who helped produce the highest number of absentee ballots ever recorded.

We toasted the new administration, but not without first thanking our hosts with a toast to Her Royal Majesty.

President Obama's speech was broadcast throughout the night upstairs while live music played downstairs. There were even cardboard cut-outs of President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden available for photos.

It was the first time we had seen so many Americans gathered in one place in London, and for many of us, was the first night in a long time that we were proud to represent America abroad. We might still be a long way from the U.S., but on Jan. 20, 2009, we were home again.

~ Jenna and Anthony Morton-Aiken

"We are one"

"Strangers in Good Company," the title of a 1991 film, best describes my husband Vincent's and my experience in Washington during Inauguration weekend.

We stayed with friends from Alexandria, Va. who took us into D.C. on Saturday, by car, and on Sunday, by metro. On Saturday you could feel the excitement building. Standing in the crowd of hundreds of thousands for the concert was exhilarating. We laughed, talked, cheered, sang and cried. We also saw many acts of kindness, such as the impeccably dressed man who held a young African-American boy on his shoulders so he could see the concert on Jumbotron. There is also something to be said about singing "This land is your land" with so many others who call this place home.

On Inauguration Day, Vin and I took the metro into D.C. alone. We found that there is always room for one or two more on a metro car. Throngs of people destined for the same place on the Mall made sure everyone got across the streets, through the gates, and had a chance to see the ceremony, as it was broadcast, made a path for someone in a wheelchair, or a child in a stroller.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate Photo Studio Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate Photo Studio This "Good Company" after giving a heartfelt cheer to the new president, carefully, and with some difficulty, exited the Mall, and dispersed into the street back to the metro and home.

We could have stayed in the warmth and comfort of our homes. We chose, instead, to be strangers who came together in this place to be able to say "We Are One".

~ Hilarie Aubois

Close up view of the new president

There are many stories from the Inauguration that are heartwarming. My experience was that the highlights were:

1. Taking the picture of the Obamas coming out of St. John's Church on Inauguration morning. My husband's office is across the street and when I saw on the news that they were leaving Blair House and going to St. John's, I grabbed the camera and went four offices down the hall to get closer. Sadly a tree was in the way, but the excitement of being so close with so few others around was super.

2. Walking with thousands of people to the Mall with no cars around and everyone in such a great mood was quite emotional. There was not one arrest made that day either.

3. Being able to stand right in front of the reviewing stand for the parade on Saturday was also wonderful. Everyone was allowed to walk all around the perimeter of the White House and they did so in an orderly fashion.

~ Pem Attaway

Part of History

Sixty-three members of the North Kingstown High School symphonic band and 10 chaperones went to Washington for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

We arrived in Washington on Saturday night. We had reservations at a restaurant in Union Station for dinner. Although the inauguration was four days away, Washington was packed with people. Barack Obama was arriving by train sometime that evening in Union Station and there were many people there to meet him. It was never confirmed whether or not Obama was in the building while we were there.

On Sunday, the NKHS band competed in the Heritage Festival, which was held at George Mason University in northern Virginia. The band played "Americans We," "Follow the River," and "Among the Clouds." The performance went well. That evening we attended a dance and awards ceremony held for the band festival. When the awards started, we all sat in suspense. Members sitting at my table began to cross their fingers, all hoping for the best. When the announcer said, "Gold Award goes to the Symphonic Band from North Kingstown High School," our tables exploded with excitement. We screamed and hugged each other. Finally, all our hard work had paid off. Along with winning the Gold Award in our division, we also were invited to attend the Heritage Festival next year.

With the competition out of the way, we spent Monday touring Washington. We attended Mayor Ciccilini's inaugural breakfast.

We visited two Smithsonian museums and the Washington monument. Big screens were already set up on the Mall for the inauguration, and vendors were selling Barack Obama merchandise ranging from t-shirts to coffee mugs. On Tuesday, we all woke up around 4:30 a.m. We ate breakfast at our hotel, and then headed on our buses into Washington to see the inauguration. Everyone was bundled up in long underwear and hand warmers. We started our hike to the gates at the Mall, carrying only the necessities.

As we got to the first gate, we were told it had already closed, so we continued from gate to gate looking for one that was open still. The streets were packed with people, and at one point the NKHS band members made a long conga line so that we could keep track of each other. We were turned away from every gate, even though we had tickets. We went into a nearby church to use the bathroom, and they invited us to watch the inauguration with them. All 73 of us piled into the lobby where we saw Barack Obama take his oath of office. Although we were not standing outside watching the inauguration, we were still there. We experienced the crowds, the cold and the history. And the reality of it is, that if we had gotten in the gates, we would have been watching it on a big screen anyway.

With the conclusion of the ceremony, we all made our way back to the buses to head home. It was hard to imagine that we had just experienced history. We were in Washington with millions of other people to see our 44th President sworn in. We also won the gold medal at the band competition.

~ Lauren McDonough

Exciting show

Sue Finn and I rode the train to D.C. We met practically everyone in our car and got some chants going as we neared Union Station.

We stayed with Melody Drnach in Foggy Bottom, as did a host of other friends.

Our condo was so filled with blow-up beds, the place seemed like one of the inflatable moon walks you hire for children's parties!

We sat in the sixth row at the "We Are One" concert. What a thrill.

What an exciting show. Laughter, tears, more tears, more smiles, more joy.

We went to the Manifest Hope show in Georgetown. A fabulous exhibit.

I got a much-coveted ticket to sit in the orange section for inauguration day. Wow!

We were really close.

I sat in the seat next to Bruce Springsteen during the ceremony.

Everyone around me was so happy and the cameras clicked non-stop.

Throughout our visit Washington was filled with joy ; people on the street searching for your eyes to share a smile, joyous cabbies and waiters, happy shop-workers and smiling police.

Everywhere there were tears, hugs and high fives.

What a thoroughly exciting and hopeful experience!

~ Janie Harris

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