Obama inauguration: 103 people changed forever after 'Road trip to the White House'

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Ecstatic and exhausted.

Fantastic and fulfilling, but freezing.

Overwhelmed, overjoyed.

They'd ridden a charter bus back to Chicago after going to Washington for President Obama's inauguration. Afterward, the 103 Chicago area participants in this particular "Road Trip to the White House" bubbled over trying to describe the experience -- and how they believe it will help shape their futures.

As they returned home -- with memories and souvenir buttons decorated with Obama's visage and emblazoned with the words "I was there" -- and settled back into life in Chicago, they talked of what they'd witnessed and spoke with a sense of ownership of their new president.

Among them was Linda Vaughn, 65, of East Chicago.

"She's the primary reason I'm here," Vaughn said of her 8-year-old granddaughter Chynna Vaughn.

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Linda Vaughn, 65, of East Chicago, is the third woman from the left, with the gray and purple head scarf. Her 8-year-old granddaughter, Chynna Vaughn, is on the right, wearing the black sweater.

"Having grown up in Georgia at a time when we couldn't buy a hamburger at F.W. Woolworth's without fearing someone of a different color would insult us or throw us out, and having a granddaughter who doesn't even have to think of such things, it was important for me she be here to see something I never, ever would have envisioned in my lifetime -- or in hers," said Vaughn.

"I believe this is the single most monumental event in the cultural fabric of our history. And, for me, it was indescribably gratifying."

Like most who thronged to Washington, Mario Christian, who came from the South Side Ashburn neighborhood, and a cousin, aunt and two friends had no tickets.

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Mario Christian, 25, of the Ashburn neighborhood, talks of his inauguration experience on the bus ride back.

"A man walked up and asked if we had tickets," said Christian, 27. "He said his wife worked for the State Department, and he gave us tickets to the front lawn of the Capitol.

"I had to fight back tears. I was trying to be strong. But I was just in disbelief that I was watching a black man become president. It filled me with hope that America really is open to change, as far as giving people a second chance and looking toward who a person is as opposed to the color of their skin. It just inspired me to be a better human being."

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Mario becomes emotional in trying to describe what the trip has meant to him, after his fellow travelers asked that he lead them in prayer on the journey back.

Heurnton A. Brown, III, 57, of North Lawndale, and his girlfriend Suzetta Whitaker, 45, also ended up having a stranger hand them a pair of VIP unlimited-access tickets.

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Heurnton A. Brown, III, is the man wearing a "Real Men Cook" baseball cap.

"Love was flowing back and forth," Brown said. "We walked and talked to every person -- black, Asian, white, everybody. The warmth of the person next to you blocked the cold. I left there truly feeling we are 'one nation under God, indivisible,' ready to work together to make liberty real for all."

Another family got a different kind of break when, after being directed to one closed gate after another, they found a government building letting people in.

"We ended up watching the inauguration on television in a cozy and warm cafeteria, with about 200 Obama supporters," said Eurydice Crockett, 41, of the South Loop, who was with her 65-year-old mother.

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For Eurydice Crockett, 41, of the South Loop, even with the cold and exhaustive walking, the experience was unforgettable.

"Before that, security were herding us like cattle," she said. "Finally watching it, all I could think of is how this man came from a single-parent household with meager means but strong family values, and worked hard and passionately to accomplish his goals. It made me feel that America has begun to heal from its wicked past, and that with hard work, truly anything is possible."

Crystal Morrell, 26, came from Roseland with her best friend. She'd been afraid to seek time off from her accounting job at BryceDowney, the law firm where she said she is the only black employee.

"But they encouraged me to go," she said. "I ended up very far from the Mall, but all I wanted was to be on the same soil as our new president and celebrate with people from all over the world.

"When our president finally said, 'So help me God,' I cried, and, in silence, I whispered, 'Dr. King, your dream has finally been fulfilled.' It changed my life. I came home determined to volunteer and mentor, and do my part in the fight towards change, because it's going to take all of us to change the face of America."

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Crystal Morrell, 26, of Roseland, came back inspired to do her part toward change by volunteering and mentoring in her community.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Maudlyne Ihejirika published on February 3, 2009 3:26 PM.

She gets an idea for inauguration road trip, and 103 people tag along was the previous entry in this blog.

Vendors make a killing selling Obama souvenirs to inauguration tour buses is the next entry in this blog.

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