He has been sworn in now, and Barack Obama is our nation’s 44th president. For the first time ever, an African American is president of the United States of America, and four local residents will never forget the experience of attending his historical inauguration ceremony.
It was a trip planned by Mike and Lisa Haydon, along with Joe Pat and Nell Haydon, but when scheduling conflicts didn’t allow Mike to attend, that opened up a spot for a friend of the group, Pam Grundy.
“Lisa invited me when Mike couldn’t go,” Pam said. “When she called me Thursday, I thought she was lying, but that was no time to be kidding. She needed an answer by noon.”
Grundy wasted little time talking to her husband, Jim, and arranging the details to hit the road just two days later. All was set, and Saturday, the group left Springfield, destined for Washington, D.C.
They had planned to stay in Virginia, which would have put them more than two hours outside of the city, but a last-minute discovery on the popular Web site Craigslist.com allowed the group to rent a small place right in Washington, D.C., according to Joe Pat, who said despite being small, it served the purpose.
Once in the nation’s capital, the group did some touring of the city’s landmarks, and also attended some other special events, including a political reception on Sunday, where Pam and Lisa were able to meet Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen, U.S. Representative Ben Chandler and Kentucky’s Lieutenant Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.
On Monday, they attended the national Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Washington National Cathedral.
“It was very special. We have celebrations here, but not on the scale of this one,” Grundy said of the tribute to King.
In preparation for their big day, the group also visited the office of Congressman Brett Guthrie, who was the source of the inauguration tickets. The Haydons worked with Guthrie through the recent election. Guthrie was sworn in on Jan. 6, and was in his office to personally hand out the tickets, according to Nell.
On Tuesday morning, the four were early risers. Grundy said they were out of bed around 4:30 a.m., hoping to get out and head for the downtown area.
“There were so many people getting on the trains,” Grundy said. “I’ve been in some crowds, but not like that.”
“Everybody was in high spirits,” Joe Pat added. “The weather was so cold, but everybody kind of ignored that and the people were out there in spite of it.”
As they made their way toward the excitement, Joe Pat said they got advice about how to get closer to the stage area. Taking that advice put them in a massive line of people, along with a lot of confusion. He said a guy directed them down through a tunnel, and it was about two and a half miles to the back of the line.
“We knew there was no way we were going to get in. There was no way to process that many people. Nell and I decided to abort that plan and just watch on TV from where we were staying,” Joe Pat said.
Pam and Lisa had other plans. They continued to try their luck, and got about a block and a half from the entrance gate when it finally closed, and they were left outside.
“There was a Hyatt hotel across the street, and we got in front of a big screen TV at the bar,” Pam said.
As they sat in front of different television sets across the city, all four were filled with emotion as they watched history, and Barack Obama was sworn in as president of the United States.
“It was so important because of the unity for us all. This will unite our nation together,” Pam said. “When he took that oath, the bar we were in was jam-packed, and there were probably 300 people in there howling. But when he took the oath, the place went quiet, and everybody was listening intently to everything he was saying. I saw tears in people’s eyes.”
“I’m still soaking it all in,” Joe Pat added. “You could feel it in the air up there. It’s a new era, basically. I’ve been taken by his relationship with his wife, Michelle, and how she admires him. You can see it, and how much strength he gets from her and his family. I think they will all have a positive impact on our society. I don’t remember (John F.) Kennedy too much, but I compare this with him and his family, the youth and the change in the era. I think this is closely related to that time.”