While millions of Americans witnessed President Barack take the Oath of Office for the second time on TV, Ripley residents Lanedra Brooks and her husband, Stacy, were not going to miss out on the opportunity to watch history unfold live before their eyes. The couple traveled to Washington to witness the president’s second inauguration on Jan. 21.
“I decided to attend this year after my husband and I realized it would be our last opportunity to witness this monumental point in American history,” Brooks said. “Not only was the first African-American president being inaugurated, but he would be inaugurated for the second time! For me it would be almost like witnessing Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream actually become a reality and come to fruition. I did not want to miss this moment!”
The Brooks stayed with Lanedra’s sister, Cathea Simelton Edgeston, who works in Washington.
Getting tickets to the event was miraculous.
“When we first shared with my sister that we wanted to come, her feedback was a little discouraging,” Brooks said. “She had good tickets to attend the last inauguration. She shared that she would not have tickets this time, and we would be in the general non-ticketed area with approximately – and literally – a million other people. At the last minute she was able to secure great tickets to the presidential
inauguration, presidential inaugural parade and the presidential inaugural ball! All of which at the last minute is completely amazing and unheard of!”
The Brooks left Edgeston’s house in Virginia at 5 a.m. on Jan. 21. What is usually a 30-minute commute turned into two hours. After the Brooks arrived in Washington, they stood in line another 2 ½ hours before arriving to the designated standing area.
“Initially, I was really disappointed to be standing behind people who had seats,” Brooks said. “But my sister quickly gave me a reality check. She said ‘Look forward. How many people do you see in front of you?’ I only saw 1000 to 2000 people. She then said ‘Now take a look behind you how many people do you see?’ There were literally a million people behind me. I couldn’t believe how close I was.”
The Brooks’ seats at the inaugural parade were even closer. They were only steps away from President Obama and the First Lady.
“We were as close to them as if we were at the Ripley Christmas parade!” Brooks said. “We actually were in the stand on the north side right next to the presidential stand. We were also able to see Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and other Cabinet members.”
Brooks said the president shared a lot in his inauguration speech that really hit home for her.
“Some points that he touched on that are closest to my heart are education, healthcare and breathing life back into the economy through jobs. Our community needs all three desperately,” she said. “His message resonates with me on a level that surpasses race, creed, color, gender, gender or faith. The president wants everyone to have an opportunity.”
Brooks said the entire experience was truly electrifying, and it made her proud to be an American. She was also surprised to see that many people who attended the president’s 2009 inauguration returned to see him sworn in a second time. But Brooks said the most interesting aspect of the inauguration as seeing such a diverse crowd show up.
“I recall to our left were several Native American Indians from Navajo country,” Brooks said. “There was also a lady in front of us from Ghana, West Africa. There were new immigrants with their citizenship cards waving American flags, and behind us there were at least six different states represented. Everyone seemed on a positive note and excited to be there.”
The area was packed, but Brooks said no one seemed to mind at all.
“We shared snacks and traded hand warmers for bottles of waters or tissue,” she said. “All and all it was one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences ever. It made me want to burst out singing, ‘I am PROUD to be an American!’”