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Washington trip was history in the making

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By Bryan Marshall

When Keegan Bailey studied U.S. presidents in first grade at Williamstown Elementary he noticed something.

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“He came home one day and pointed out that, ‘Mommy, none of the presidents look like me. They’re all old, white men,’” said Lynn Bailey, mother of the bi-racial Keegan.

When Sen. Barack Obama was elected president, Lynn decided to take her oldest son to Washington D.C., to see the historic inauguration in person on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

“It’s great to be able to go to any inauguration, but it was really unique and special to go to this one,” Lynn said.

Eight-year-old Keegan, now a third grader at Williamstown, also was joined on the trip by his 11-year-old cousin, Andrew Davis, and his aunt, Amy Davis.

“I was jumping up and down and running all over the house,” Keegan said about learning about the trip. “My mom tried to calm me down so I went downstairs and watched TV for awhile. I just kept bouncing up and down and telling everybody about it.”

The four family members left Grant County on Sunday, Jan. 18, for a nearly 10-hour drive just outside of Washington D.C. to Arlington, Va., where they stayed with a friend.

The day before the ceremony, they took the Metro to the capitol and learned the route they had to take to the gated area they had tickets for.

Anxious for the day’s events, they left a little before 6 a.m. the next day to make sure they were as close as possible to the soon-to-be president Obama.

That’s when things did not go as planned.

Every Metro car was filled completely at the station.

Eventually, Lynn, Keegan, Amy and Andrew learned they had to ride the opposite direction and loop around if they hoped to go anywhere.

While the unconventional route worked, it took quite awhile to get closer to their destination.

Once off the Metro, the foursome walked a long distance in the wrong direction before finally making it to the security gate around 10 a.m., but no more people were being let in.

“There were thousands of purple ticket holders that never made it to the security gate to get in,” Lynn said. “They had it blocked off. Some people were getting a little frustrated with the mob mentality of ‘Let us in. Let us in.’ There was an old lady next to us and the boys were of course disappointed we weren’t getting in. She told them that they are still here and how amazing that it is to be here on this day in history.”

About 300 yards away from the ceremony, they all huddled around a man who had an old radio to listen to the inauguration next to a building in an effort to stay warm in the frigid cold.

“When the radio was off and the crowd was quieter, you could still hear Obama’s voice over the intercom,” Lynn said. “It was faint and it echoed.”

Between one and two million people are estimated to have attended the historic event.

When he returns to school, Andrew said he planned to tell his friends and teachers about his experience and show them photos.

“There were hundreds and thousands of people waiting out there trying to get in,” he said. “It was kind of crazy. There was tons of people there from different places. You could meet new people, talk to them and hear their experiences.”

Keegan, who described the crowd as “very freaky,” said he was afraid he would get lost in the chaos.

However, he made sure to hold onto his mom’s pocket, his aunt’s hand and stay close to his cousin so they would not get separated.

“I fell a few times and almost got squished, but I got straight back up,” Keegan said.

Amy said she has never seen so many people gathered together before.

“I think it speaks to the hope and the change that this president has promised to bring and the excitement that’s there behind it,” she said. “It truly was just unbelievable.”

Despite not being in the ideal spot to witness the swearing in of the 44th president, the significance of the moment was not lost on the Grant County residents.

“It’s just an amazing day, especially for our family,” said Amy Davis. “All of my nieces and nephews are of a different race and what an opportunity this gives them for the future to know and be able to witness the swearing in of the first African American president. My oldest son enjoys history and it means a lot to him to be here.”

Keegan, who later hugged his mom for taking him to the inauguration, saw his mom cry “happy tears” about the occasion.

“It’s very special to me that I’m African American too and he is the first president that’s just like me,” he said. “It makes me very proud. I’ll tell my grandchildren. I’ll tell my children. I’ll tell my great-grandchildren. I’ll tell everyone as long as I live.”

“Now, there won’t be anymore of ‘None of them look like me,’” Lynn said. “To know that, in our country, you truly can achieve anything is just amazing.”