Obama's inauguration: An islander's perspective

Arla Sutton of Orcas Island, Jan. 20, 2009, at President Obama
Arla Sutton of Orcas Island, Jan. 20, 2009, at President Obama's inauguration.
— image credit: Chris Sutton and Kate Long

Several islanders attended Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C. We asked some of them to share their experiences of this historic moment in U.S. history.

The Sutton/Long family
Early on Sunday, Jan. 18 we – Chris Sutton, Kate Long and our six-year-old daughter, Arla Sutton – left our home in Olga and headed to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

A big thanks goes to Grandpa Ed and Grandma Carol Sutton for taking our three-year-old Sam on an extended sleep-over while we were away!

Two tickets for the "gray section" of seating up front were reserved in our name, but not knowing exactly what to expect when we arrived, we decided to be flexible. On Monday, we made our way to Rep. Rick Larsen's office to pick up the tickets. On the Metro into Union Station, one passenger was spontaneously interviewing her seat-mate with her video camera, obviously excited about the events ahead. People were talking to each other asking where they were from and what their plans were for the next day.

Tuesday morning, we made our way to the National Mall. People were flooding the streets, all streaming to the same place. By looking at the crowds the previous day, we had already decided not to split up and forwent our ticketed area closer to the Capitol. By 9:30 a.m., we had selected a spot just in front of the Washington Monument where we could see two Jumbotrons as well as the Capitol in the distance.

We chatted with those around us in anticipation of the ceremony. The couple to our right had driven from San Diego; another family was visiting from Maine; the group to our left had arrived on a charter bus from Georgia.

Despite the cold, everyone was full of good cheer and optimistic anticipation. There was great applause when we started to see activity on the Capitol, and by the time Michelle Obama appeared the crowd was elated. When Barack Obama emerged, the crowd went wild.

I felt proud and relieved to listen to Obama's address. It was truthful and powerful, and I felt he was talking to me – something I have not felt from any other president. Our family went to D.C. to witness a beginning of many changes to come. I felt so satisfied to be there, and to have the opportunity to bring our six-year-old to experience it too.

When we returned to Orcas after a very long day of travel, Arla said of the trip, "I was so excited and happy to be in Washington, D.C. I have never been with so many other people who were excited and happy too."

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