By Michelle Miller
---- — The crowd was not as large as the president’s first inauguration, but an estimated 1 million people gathered to watch him be sworn in for a second term.
In attendance were 46 ninth- through 12th-grade students from Cooperstown Central School.
Freshman Olivia Leinhart called it “mind-boggling” to be so close to the president. She said it was her first trip to Washington, D.C.
“The inauguration itself was definitely my favorite part of the trip,” she said. “It is a part of history and I would recommend that other students go if given the chance."
Leinhart said another highlight of the trip for her was getting to take part in the WorldStrides Inaugural Dance. She said the event, just for students, was fun because it allowed for mingling with other students from all around the country.
This marked the third time CCS has provided the opportunity for students to attend the inauguration through WorldStrides, an educational student travel company. High school social studies teacher Jennifer Pindar has planned all three trips. She said the students had a richer experience compared to the last time because they had a better view of the inauguration ceremony and were able to see and do more.
“Because the last inauguration had close to 1.8 million people we were not able to get to places such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and the Korean Memorial just because of the large masses of people. This trip we were able to go up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we were able to go up and actually touch the Vietnam Wall and were able to see things we couldn't physically get ourselves to last time. Also, we couldn't get into Mount Vernon last time, this time we were able to go through the house and all that,” she said.
Pindar called the inauguration an “amazing experience.”
“It was still very crowded. We had to fight our way through the crowd and keep everybody together,” she said.
“It was quite an experience to stand there and be a part of living history. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and it is an African-American president being sworn in, so that is very historical itself that they could all witness that firsthand,” she added.
According to Pindar, the students sat in the first section of general public seating area.
“We had a great spot. We could see the Capitol and were right in front of the second Jumbotron,” she said.
Cooperstown sophomore Emily Stephenson said she has been to the nation’s capital countless times on family trips, but has never been there for something as big as the president’s inauguration.
“Things started getting crazy on inauguration day,” she said. “Our wake-up call was at like 4 in the morning and we were all like zombies getting out of bed.”
According to Stephenson, students thought it was funny when Pindar told them they needed to hitch onto one another so that they would not be separated. However, she said Pindar was giving good advice because people were trying to tear through the crowd.
“The first 20 minutes or so of walking was not too bad, but after that, it was crazy because there were so many of us,” she said. “We were all bundled up because it was cold that morning.”
It got to a point where it was hard not to question how much more walking was going to required, and it was such a relief when the Capitol building came within view, Stephenson said.
Once the students arrived at their destination, Stephenson said they all immediately put down trash bags and laid in a heap on top of one another to keep warm.
“People started taking pictures of us,” she said. “My friend said her mom saw us on TV because she recognized her bright yellow jacket while laying there.”
Other than the inauguration ceremony, Stephenson said she really enjoyed visiting the Newseum.
“It was a really cool museum. It was very modern, unlike the other museums we went through. The architecture was just really cool. Everything was all glass making things really bright,” she said.
CCS junior Lucas Lyons said before leaving for the inauguration he was prepared to be impressed by President Barack Obama’s speech and was not left disappointed.
“It was really amazing having so many people surrounding you being so patriotic. It was really something that you won’t forget,” he said.
Lyons said being a part of such a large crowd made him realize how small the world really is and how connected people are to one another.
“Although we believe in many different things, we all came together to support our country,” he said. “So many people wanted Mitt Romney to be president and so many people wanted Obama to be president, but at this time we all came together to support the president.”
Senior Ryan Barrows said it is hard to pick out just a few highlights from the trip because there were so many things to do and see. He said he really enjoyed the Holocaust Museum and seeing all the monuments.
“We were able to learn a lot about the monuments and got neat little history backgrounds on each of them,” he said.
“The highlight was obviously the inauguration," he said. "It was a good experience and not everybody can say they have done it.”