Friday, January 30, 2009
When you turn back the pages of time, you can see reflections of milestones in your life in the shoes of a small child taking their first steps, or taking that first driver’s test when you’re old enough. Twenty-four Logan teenagers, through a program called Close Up, were able to experience a chance of a lifetime that will forever be a milestone in their lives. These people were able to watch the inauguration of the 44th president, Barack Obama, in Washington D.C.
I was among that group of teens, and, weeks before that, we counted down as the days started to pass, inching closer to January 16, 2009 (our departure date). The day finally arrived, and we were edging to get our plane ticket. Several reports from different news stations came to greet us at the airport. “I’m juiced!” one of our classmates said. We saof our goodbyes to our families and, soon after, entered the plane.
The seven-hour flight went by in a blink of an eye. We exited the plane and immediately it felt like we had entered a freezer. We grabbed our luggage and headed for our hotel. Right after we left the airport; an intense rush of cold hit all of us.
“This is the coldest place I’ve every been,” many of our group members said, including myself. We dropped our stuff at the hotel and headed for our first destination, Arlington Cemetery. To get there, we needed to take a system of transportation called the Metro. Upon arrival, we saw the hundreds of gravestones of fallen war veterans. We saw President John F. Kennedy’s grave and its Eternal Flame. As we stared at the view of the many graves on a hill, we could feel the power and the presence of all the people that came before us.
We returned to the hotel to rest up and get ready for the big Close Up welcome. We all meet our roommates, some from California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Florida. We were broken into workshop groups and the only people we knew were our school roommates and two Close Up members for other schools around the country that wejust met. At first it felt frightening because most of the other teens were white and there wasn’t much of the diversity we're accustomed to at Logan.
January 18 was the start of all the festivities of the inauguration. There was a big concert at the Lincoln Memorial and it was packed. We tried to get as close as possible, but we ended becoming like fish in a can and bunched up around crowds of people. The scene following the concert was insane. We all were scattered around the Mall and were to head to a certain point. However, our information was erroneous, and we went to the wrong pick up spot. So, we ended up going to different places around the city.
“Oh my god, it was so much fun,” one of the boys from our school said. We ended up finding our workshop leaders and slowly, in small groups, our workshop classmates returned also.
January 20 is forever going to be in all of our memories. We woke up at three in the morning to get ready to leave. We met downstairs from our rooms and it looked like most of us were still in dreamland. We stepped outside and the wind chill was just harsh. We were the first group waiting for the Metro to come by. When the Metro arrived, we could see that it was already jam packed with people.
In the Metro station, we could hear masses of people chanting “Obama…Obama!!” Despite the very early hour, the streets were already crowded with people. We entered the Mall, and went our separate directions. The temperature felt like it was below zero, plus the wind-chill made it extra cold. Some of us who couldn’t take the harsh conditions that “huddled up like birds in a nest” said our Logan teacher, Jeffrey Ustick.
The sun slowly rose and we could feel a small amount of heat coming. The clock finally struck the top of the hour and Barack Obama made his appearance. During his speech, we could feel the energy of the whole crowd; it almost brought tears to some of us.
“Our spirit is stronger, and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.” This line was the most reassuring moment in my experience. The power of the people is strong within our nation.
From this experience, I’ve learned that we need to look upon the past, and learn the mistakes we’ve made and try not to repeat them. People’s lives have been lost for the sake of the future. The thousands of graves, to the guards of the unknown soldier show that we have responsibilities we need to uphold, and to continue the struggle.
We are strong as a nation, but not as individual people. I’ve learned that we need to treasure our history and the people who wrote in it.
Rosa Parks sat on the bus in 1955. Martin Luther King Jr. walked the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 to say “I have a dream." Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 so that one day, the children of today, we the people of the United States of America, can one day fly.