They can imagine crowds of people standing crushed like sardines, an entire day of being on their feet and the rush of excitement to witness history.
As about 20 Glenn Hills Middle School pupils prepare to load onto a charter bus for a 10-hour drive to Washington to see President Obama’s inauguration Monday, they said they are looking forward to hearing his speech and getting a glimpse of the nation’s leader.
“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” said eighth-grader Leyana Baggett, 13.
When Obama’s hand is on a Bible in front of millions of onlookers for his second-term inauguration, Augusta residents will be littered among the crowd. They will include students, retirees and soldiers who want to be a part of the historic event and see the country’s first black president being sworn in a second time.
Shirley Nixon, 65, arranged for about 160 people to take three buses for a trip to the Capitol. Nixon, who registered 9,000 people to vote between the 2008 and 2012 elections, said she wants to help people achieve the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I like to do this because I want everyone to come and see history,” Nixon said. “It’s not all about me. It’s about the young generation coming up. It’s not black, and it’s not white. It’s about all of us having a good time.”
Nixon worked with her congregation at Tabernacle Baptist Church to help organize a group for the trip, as she did in 2009. At that inauguration, Nixon remembers people dancing in the street, strangers hugging strangers and not a mean word being uttered.
Obama’s inauguration brought out the best in people, she said, as it should.
The country’s first president, George Washington, was inaugurated at Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789. That first ceremony started many traditions that presidents have followed since.
Washington sealed his swearing-in with a speech. It is also customary for a Supreme Court justice to preside over the inauguration, as William Cushing, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, did during Washington’s second inauguration.
Festivities grew through the years with parades and open houses.
U.S. Rep. John Barrow donated some of his inauguration tickets and arranged for eight wounded warriors receiving treatment at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center to travel to Washington.
The Yellow Ribbon Fund will cover the cost for the hotel rooms during the trip, and the Fisher House Foundation will use donated frequent flier miles to pay for airfare.
The soldiers will watch the inauguration Monday and get a tour of the Capitol from Barrow on Tuesday before heading back to Augusta.
“I can’t think of a better use for the very small number of tickets that I have to distribute,” Barrow said. “We owe it to them to let them be a witness to this historic event they made possible.”
Army Spc. Jessie Wollek, 23, said its important for young people to participate in such events and care about the workings of the government.
Wollek was injured in 2011 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province of Afghanistan.
He said he was lucky to keep all his limbs and is still undergoing surgery to recover.
He said getting the news that he’d be able to travel to Washington on Barrow’s trip has been a dream come true.
“It’s going to be great because this is (Obama’s) second term, and he’s going to continue to go where he has and show that he’s one of the greatest presidents we’ve had in a long time,” Wollek said.
“He’s fighting to better America. … For someone who is outside of political affairs to get to go and see that is one in a million.”