Fourteen Tucumcari students were on the National Mall Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.
They braved Washington’s deep chill that hovered around 25 degrees and witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to hold the presidential office.
“It was amazing,” Kristen Rich said.
“It was awesome. I really enjoyed it. We heard and saw everything,” said Samatha Brake, who added it was also a learning experience.
Interviewed by phone Tuesday, the Tucumcari High School students left Tucumcari on Jan. 17 and are to return today from their tour of Washington.
The students said they began their journey to the mall at 3 a.m. Tuesday. First they rode a bus from their lodgings for more than hour, then walked about two miles to get to their designated section, and then waited several hours for the ceremony to begin.
In order to keep warm, the students said they huddled together before the inauguration, and sang and danced to songs that were broadcast over the outdoor video and sound system to the mass of onlookers waiting for the ceremony began, Rich said.
“We sang ‘Lean on me,'” Rich said. “We were jumping up having a good time.”
“What really surprised me was how many people were there. I’m just from the little town of Tucumcari,” Brake said.
To make sure the group stayed together, “we all held hands,” Brake said.
“We held each others’ jackets so we could stay together. There were thousands and thousands of people,” Nathan Andrada said.
“It was nice. It was fun. I liked being there,” Andrada said.
Although the students couldn’t actually see the swearing in ceremony, they said they were about 200 feet from a JumboTron screen which broadcast the swearing in, the president’s speech and remarks by other dignitaries, Chase Waters said.
Waters, who estimated that they stood midway on the mall, said, “It was overwhelming … all the people. There were millions of people.”