Sunday Day OneI woke up at 8:30 AM with much excitement and anticipation of what lye before me. In hours, I would be departing Grambling for Washington, D.C. for the Presidential Inauguration of President Barack Obama. There were a few things left to be done before leaving, which included getting coverage of the GSU band before leaving led by band director, Dr. Pannell. His prayer was that notoriety would shine on the band as they were a part of history, which in a way had been my prayer for Patrick and me as we went to Washington to provide coverage for the GSU-TV Center and the state of Louisiana.
While outside of Dunbar Hall, I had the privilege of getting some good interviews including with representatives of USA Today who were there to write a story on the band and their honor of performing for the President. The best interview was with Dr. Pannell because of his openness of what the Inauguration meant for him. The GSU band busses pulled off at 10:30 AM and locals were there to wave them off with pride.
The second group of students to depart Grambling State for the Inauguration were members of the Student Union board. Patrick and I rode with the Student Union and left the campus around 1:15 PM. The excitement was definitely in the air until we got to Alabama and the other bus we left with broke down at 7:00 PM. Four hours later at 11:00 PM we were back on the road.
Monday Day Two
At 5:00 AM our bus breaks down in Georgia for six hours. At this point, everyone was beyond frustrated and upset. It was also at this time that the people from KTBS Channel 3 news in Shreveport were calling for an interview with me as their Washington, D.C. correspondent thanks to Mr. Blakeney setting that up. I told KTBS about our dilemma with the busses breaking down, which they decided to include in the pre-recorded interview that aired later that day.
I told them in the interview that the students were irritated at the moment, but that the trouble would all be worth it in the end when we reached D.C. and were a part of a truly historic moment. I realized that anything worth having is worth waiting for and to be a part of history is something worth having the experience of. The finish line of being in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of the first black president was going to be great once we passed the hurtles of the bus breakdowns.
The Inauguration was a once in a lifetime kind of experience and we were blessed to be a few of the fortunate ones to be able to see it so we just had to be patient. At 11:00 AM, we were back on the road with no more problems and arrived at our hotel, The Embassy Suites in Virginia at 7:00 that evening.
Everyone checked into their rooms and headed out to get something to eat. Patrick and I went to Applebee’s and came back to the hotel to do some work for our stories on the laptop. At 11:00 PM, I did another interview, which was live in Shreveport for KTBS Channel 3. The interview went well and I talked with the anchor for about 5 minutes. I did not get to sleep because we were leaving for Washington, D.C. in a few hours after the interview.
Tuesday Day Three
It was the morning of the big day and I could feel the positive energy in the air. A total stranger on the elevator asked me if I was excited about the day and with a big smile replied yes. We left Virginia for the two hour bus ride to D.C. at 3 AM. We arrived in D.C. at 5 AM, but the driver had no idea where to park so we rode around for an hour wasting time. As we were driving, there were state troopers, army looking guys, and every type of patrol you can think of at every block on every street. Everywhere you looked there were some type of security, which made me almost feel like we were preparing for war in Washington. During this time, I did another live phone interview with the anchor at KTBS describing the traffic and the crowd making their way to the Capitol Building.
Meanwhile Patrick and I needed to be dropped off because we had tickets to the Inauguration that required for us to be at our checkpoint by 8 AM when the doors opened to beat the rush. Unfortunately after much walking through the enormous crowds and asking questions, we finally made it to where we needed to be only to be turned away by security because they had already blocked off the entrance due to the extremely large amount of people and we were unable to get in. Thousands of people refused to take no for an answer including Patrick and I. We were determined not to give up, but eventually we realized it was not going to happen. I was absolutely devastated almost to the point of tears since we actually had tickets and still could not get in.
We ended up watching the Inauguration outside in D.C. across the street from a jumbo screen. We waited for about an hour for the inauguration to begin in the bitter cold once we got stationed amongst the large crowd of people. Once the inauguration started, my numb fingers and toes did not seem to bother me because I was so transfixed at what I was witnessing. Aretha Franklin helped start things off by singing her version of God Bless America, which I thought sounded pretty bad.
As the rest of the ceremony proceeded, it was amazing to actually be in ear shot of the man I watched deliver such incredible speeches on television. I remember thinking to myself that I was literally standing in the mist of history and would look back on this day many years from now with such pride that I was there and have admiration of what one man named Barack Obama had accomplished. There were people everywhere from all over the world in celebration of President Obama and there was such a spirit of unity especially at certain times like when Obama and his family individually made their appearances out on stage in front of the public. Thousands of small American flags and cheers went up in unison every time Obama’s name was mentioned or if Obama himself made an inspiring comment in his speech.
While all of this was happening, some people started collapsing and had to be rescued by the troopers who were patrolling in front of us. Young and old had to be helped after falling perhaps because of the harsh weather and from standing so long. I started to wonder if some of them were doing it on purpose just to get closer to where they could see Obama. By the end of the Inauguration, I was shaking nonstop and my teeth were chattering like I have never experienced before. I wanted to get warm and fast, but I knew that work still had to be done. I did a stand up on camera with probably about a thousand people or more behind me and I described the scene and how every race was represented in Washington for the historic moment.
It was then that I met another Brea who was standing right next to me after I closed my stand up. She heard me say my name and she said that her name was Brea too, but that she spelled it Bria. She wanted a picture with me and then Patrick and I went on our way to get some man on street interviews. (MOS) I did one last interview with someone from KTBS describing what had just happened and voiced my excitement of the day’s events.
We met many Grambling alumni who noticed our Grambling mic flag and wanted to stop and talk with us or even take a picture, which was pretty cool to be all the way in D.C. and still run into Grambling people. Patrick and I made our way to the Washington Monument where we continued our interviews with people of all races, genders, and ages. I realized during these interviews that Obama had truly united an entire country. It was especially interesting to interview older people who had lived during the Martin Luther King Jr. era who said they never thought they would see the day where we would have a black president of the United States of America.
The overall consensus of most of the interviewees was that they were ready for change and had no doubt that President Obama was the right person for the job. It continued to get colder and colder and time was running short until it was time to meet with our bus and head back to the hotel. I did one last stand up on camera with the Washington Monument behind me and then we scurried to catch the bus, but not without getting some souvenirs.
We met up with our group around 5 PM and took the two hour bus ride back to our hotel in Virginia. I was dead tired and slept the entire way back. Back in Virginia, we stopped at Cracker Barrel. Once we returned to the hotel, the night was still not over. Patrick and I took time out in the hotel lobby to get more interviews from GSU students on their take of the day. No question about it, everyone was still thrilled even hours later to have been a part of history. The only thing left to do was go to sleep after close to 24 hours of being awake.
Wednesday Day Four
Today was departure day and we left the hotel at 11 AM, but did not leave Virginia until about 3 PM. The driver decided to take us on a tour around Jamestown and William and Mary College. The driver gave us a brief history of everything we were seeing and how Jamestown was one of the first places slavery took place. We even saw a mock slave ship on the water as we were driving.
We took a tour inside a Jamestown Museum where we took pictures and visited the souvier shop. We left the museum to get some gas before hitting the road and we also took a group picture in front of the bus before leaving.
There were no more bus problems and we only stopped for gas and to change drivers. We made it back to Grambling on Thursday at 9 AM. One of the most important things I learned as a journalist from the trip was that you have to be flexible. The story I hoped for did not turn out exactly as planned because we were not able to actually get into the Inauguration, but I have to be able to turn lemons into lemonade, which I believe I did.
More importantly, January 20, 2009 will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life as I lived to see something that so many of my forefathers fought and died for. If only they could be here. Thank you Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Little Rock Nine, Freedom Riders, those who participated in sit ins and boycotts, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and anyone else who made sacrifices for Barack Obama to be where is today and ultimately give so many others genuine hope that they too can achieve anything despite their race. It is because of your sacrifices and never giving up that our country has come this far and decided to put a black man in the Oval Office.