The Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco, read his poem “One Today” at Monday’s ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama. It said in part: “One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores. My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors, each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day.”
Forty-four students and four staff members from Columbus High School were among those faces yawning to life as they gathered before dawn on the National Mall to witness a crescendo of history around noon, the second inauguration of America’s first black president.
“The inauguration was extremely magnificent because it is one of those far, few and fleeting moments that several do not get to experience,” said Columbus High junior Olivia Buckner. “The highlight of the day was probably when President Obama made his speech. Personally, I think that he is one of the best public speakers, and so to see that and to be there was amazing.”
Columbus High senior Tedric Palmer Jr. sensed the scene’s significance as well.
“Some parts of life are moments you can’t really forget,” he said. “Sometimes you stop and take it all in.”
Tedric did exactly that as the Columbus group hushed along with the hundreds of thousands in the crowd when Obama began his speech. “Everyone was standing there so close to each other,” Tedric said. “You realize they’re strangers but they’re not foreign to me. We’re all Americans. We’re really not that different, are we?”
And then after the ceremony, when that many people attempted to leave at the same time, other emotions overcame the patriotism and brotherly love.
“Walking back,” Tedric said, “some people were so irritable — not the best of moods.”
“The worst part,” Olivia said, “was probably the time that everyone was trying to leave and an ambulance was trying to come in. Everyone was like a deer in the headlights and then everyone started to push — not the best moment.”
The highs and the lows, the Columbus students experienced them all. Here are some other notable nuggets, as the students reported live on our website, www.ledger-enquirer.com.
7:22 a.m. "Just an example of our generation walking to the Capitol while playing music on an iPod and singing along. There's no better way to show 'We are Young.'" -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
7:25 a.m. "We have made it to the mall!!! We all woke up around 4:45. On the 2-mile walk to the mall, we had music and speakers thanks to Reames Clark! I got to DJ for a little bit. It made our hike a whole lot shorter. I expected it to be really cold, but I had to take my jacket off for now. We have some really beautiful pictures because the sun is just coming up. It's gonna be a wonderful day!" -- junior Olivia Buckner
7:27 a.m. "This is the most people I've seen at once ever in my life. We are all marching like penguins." -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
8:06 a.m. "We woke up at 5 and packed up our snacks. Then we talked a total of 2 miles while listening to music and then sat down at our spot very close to the capitol." -- freshman Reames Clark
8:07 a.m. "We are sitting down and counting down til the program starts." -- sophomore Azina Doyle
10:41 a.m. "Everyone is packed in right now, and, if you aren't friendly, you will be by the end. They all passed out American flags, and it's a sea of red, white and blue." -- Tedric Palmer Jr.
11:03 a.m. "Everyone goes wild for a chance to be on TV." -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
11:11 a.m. "It's really crowded, but we've got some elbow room! It's not that cold anymore either!" -- junior Olivia Buckner
11:12 a.m. “It’s exciting when we get to see the old presidents and the kids walk in. Obama’s girls just walked in. Purple coats.” -- sophomore Azina Doyle
12:51 p.m. "I wore 6 layers on my torso and 3 layers on my legs!" -- junior Olivia Buckner
1:23 p.m. "Obama's speech was amazing!!! It was perfect. It addressed everything, all causes and needs." -- junior Olivia Buckner
1:26 p.m. "It is madness getting out of the mall. When we were walking through the crowd, it felt like we were penguins because we had to huddle together and shuffle to move at all." -- junior Olivia Buckner
1:39 p.m. "I just took the most baby steps to move 10 feet. If you want to see annoyed Americans, try leaving after the inauguration." -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
1:40 p.m. "Beyonce got the loudest roar out of anyone. Simply America." -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
1:41 p.m. "Jamming to music a mile from the mall, going back to the hotel." -- freshman Reames Clark
2:03 p.m. "I used my hat as a marker for everyone to follow, being the tallest out of the group. That quick thinking came in handy." -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
2:10 p.m. "The walk back feels like we're pioneers heading West. Our gold is the bus and the comfort of the seats." -- senior Tedric Palmer Jr.
2:14 p.m. "We've been walking for so long and holding flags for so long, I feel like we're marching for something." -- senior Mary Helen Callier
2:25 p.m. "We had to stop to wait on some people, and I looked down the street; it looked like what I would picture the end of the world would look like." -- junior Olivia Buckner
2:26 p.m. "We aren't going to the parade because we are going back to the hotel to take showers and take naps, which I will be taking (a nap) on the bus." -- junior Olivia Buckner
2:52 p.m. "I look to the next few years with hope." -- freshman Alvin Dysick