Citizens Take Trip Of A Lifetime

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 19, 2009

With history taking place in Washington Tuesday, someBrookhavenites are taking their chance to be a part of thepresidential inauguration.

At least two buses of people left Brookhaven Sunday for analmost 20-hour drive in order to see firsthand what will be apivotal chapter in American history as Barack Obama takes his placein office Tuesday as the first black president of the United Statesof America.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of history,” said VernellHooker, from Brookhaven. “Just to be able to say one day that I wasthere when our first black president was elected.”

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Hooker was loading his luggage on a bus of around 50 people thatleft Sunday afternoon from the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Dr. Marilyn Dow-Harris, one of the trip’s originators, said sheand her friend Maxine Jones decided shortly after Obama’s electionthat it would be a good plan to load up a bus and head north.

“In my lifetime, I never thought I’d see America with a blackpresident,” said Dow-Harris, who said she volunteered on the Obamacampaign from day one. “I think we could have filled 12 buses.Within 20 minutes after I started letting people know what we weredoing, the bus was full.”

Members of the group will be staying in Richmond, Va., which wasas close as they could get for the historic event.

Felicia Durr of Brookhaven was getting on the bus with familyand friends, and said this will be the first of a lot of things forher. For instance, she said, she’s never been to Washington,D.C.

“It’s my first inauguration, too, and I’m glad about it,” shesaid, adding that she’s excited about meeting other dedicated Obamafans. “I’m looking forward to meeting people and fellowshipping. Ithink he’s a person for everybody.”

Meanwhile, Serving All People President Gwen Smith said once shehad gotten together a bus of around 40 people to head toWashington, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran gave her a ticket to go to theinauguration.

“My friend got one, too, so we’re both going to go in there,”she said. “There’s an area for people who don’t have tickets, sothe others are going there.”

Smith said she, too, got on the horn the minute Obama’s victorywas announced, putting together a bus and booking arrangements inBaltimore.

“Where we’re going to be parked at we’ll be a half mile fromwhere the inauguration starts, and we’ll shuttle right down thestreet,” she said.

And both groups are banking on the early bird getting the wormwhen it comes to seating. While Dow-Harris’ group will be leavingVirginia around 1 a.m. for the two-hour drive to D.C. Tuesdaymorning, Smith’s group will also be camping in the cold weatherhoping for good seats.

“We’ll be there at 4:30 in the morning,” said Smith. “That’swhen the gates open.”

And one thing that is not lost on anyone is the landmark eventfor the country. Even 9-year-old Jordan Blackwell, who is stayinghome while family members go, said he wishes he could be presentfor the event.

“I just want to see Obama,” he said. “I think he’s good.”

Hooker said he’s glad he’s getting to make the trip because ofwhat the event implies about Americans reaching out and learning toaccept one another.

“Change is evident,” he said. “This lets you know that Americais moving more toward equality than I think we even believe.”

There is only one drawback, Hooker said. It’s not going to bethe long lines or the crowded streets. It’s not even the heightenedsecurity that will inevitably slow things to a crawl.

“It’s that cold, cold weather!” he said.