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On being there: thoughts from the inauguration

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Barack Obama arrives for his inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Timothy Giles

These words came from people who attended the inauguration on January 20 in Washington D.C. From Nevada and beyond, their emotions were echoed throughout the historic day.

Mike Jackson

Las Vegas, Pastor. Traveled with wife Kathy, their two sons, Anthony and Keith and godson, Steve.

“It’s such a historical event. There’s nothing that replaces the idea of coming here and being part of the event. Bringing my children so they have that memory to even share from generation to generation of one of the most historical things to take place as it relates to black history.

“I would compare this to…in our lifetime, perhaps the opportunity to actually have an opportunity that every American had the right to use restrooms, to go to restaurants and so forth and so on.”

Kevin Kloeker, Chike Okonywo and Megan Psupros

From Las Vegas, London and Chicago, respectively. Kevin is a science teacher at Las Vegas High, Chike is an actor and Megan also teaches science.

Kevin: “We discussed it (meeting in D.C.) prior to the election. Then on election night we made it official. … We really didn’t plan much after that. We got out here and everything sort of came together. We got tickets. I even found $20 on the ground. Everything just fell into place (for us) to be here and I couldn’t be happier.”

Chike: “My plan was originally to fly in, camp over one night and fly out the next day. And my friend (Paige) who also came with us said, ‘Are you crazy? Camping overnight in D.C.; you’re gonna die!’ I said, ‘I don’t care. I’m just going to try and do it because I wanted to be here.’”

Chike: It hasn’t really sunken in yet. Truly appreciating what we’re witnessing and the fact that the whole world’s eyes are on where we are. I don’t think we’ll get to truly appreciate that until we’re all outside of it again.

Megan: “I actually had tickets to Grant Park on election night. I was there as well. And the fact that I was there, like Chike said, you don’t fully realize that all eyes are on you until you step outside. The next day when I woke up I said to myself, ‘Holy smokes! I was there.’ It’s the same with this (inauguration). It’s really special and I feel lucky to have been here.”

Barack Obama takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts to become the 44th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Barack Obama takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts to become the 44th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Paige Hendrix

Henderson, 4th grade teacher (social studies and science).

“This inauguration has special meaning for me for two purposes. The first is as a social studies teacher I get to share this experience with my kids. We had an entire election unit, so they got to talk about what an election looks like. … We even voted in class. We talked about the implications of both candidates winning. We had pretty lively debate about it.

“The second reason is personally, being multi-racial (black, white and native American) and seeing someone else who is multi-racial represent such a cross section of the United States, it really shows what the U.S. is about. When I traveled abroad a lot of people didn’t know we had African Americans in our country. I had to explain that no, that’s a very big part of our identity. But now we get to see that in the highest seat of power, someone who represents that identity. He (Obama) represents people in every single class you can imagine. … His election shows the world that we are open minded, we are progressing, and that we are willing to work with other people.

“When I voted in the primary I cried. It was just an overwhelming feeling. I thought about my parents coming together in a time when that wasn’t really accepted. That’s huge. So many people died for this to happen. So many people fought and died for Obama and for Senator Clinton to be on the top of that ballot. I balled my eyes out in the car afterwards because I couldn’t really think of any other way to express my appreciation for what I’d been given.”

Aisha and Jason Johnson, both 29

Dearborn, Mich., industrial engineer and product design engineer

Jason: “We’re expecting our first child in May, and we wanted to be able to tell them the story of how they were there. I also feel like we’re representatives for the rest of our family who couldn’t be here, my mother, and previous generations who had to struggle so that we didn’t have to. So it’s important in the sense that it’s a big responsibility.”

Aisha: “Actually being here in the city (during the inauguration) is even more overwhelming. Just seeing all the people here. Everyone’s excited behind a certain cause. We’ve probably seen a hundred different types of Barack paraphernalia.”

Jason: “I was excited to see how much unity there was. This is at a time when across America people are really down. And to see somebody like Barack Obama come along and pull everybody together. Everyone says it, there are so many clichés, but there’s really no way to describe the feeling.”

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