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Oklahomans recall their inaugural experiences



WASHINGTON, D.C. " Oklahoma City University student Carri Perrier never thought she would walk four miles in Washington, D.C., in freezing weather before the sun had risen.

But on inauguration day, she did. And so did thousands of others.


Perrier, a liberal arts graduate student from Broken Arrow, spent 10 days in Washington, D.C., last week through the Washington Center's Presidential Inauguration Academic Seminar, for which she earned three credit hours. It was only her second trip to the nation's capital.

She was one of the lucky students attending the seminar who actually scored tickets to President Barack Obama's monumental inauguration. She got her ticket through Rep. Mary Fallin, ensuring her a spot to witness history.

On the morning of Jan. 20, a pure adrenaline rush woke Perrier at 7 a.m. After what she calls a "valet nightmare" at the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball the night before at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, Perrier had not gotten back to her room until 3:30 a.m.

But, to get to inauguration, there was no other way but to walk. All of the traffic bridges between her room in Arlington, Va., and Capitol Hill were closed, and the Metro subway tunnels were already packed hours before she even woke.

"At first, I was skeptical about walking," she said. "I thought maybe the Metro would be easier than I thought. But then, we knew, we had to walk it."

As she and those she spent the night with set out on foot, there were four others behind them.

"By the time we got to the Marine monument, there was just a stream of people walking," she said. "It was almost like we were walking for a just cause. It was beyond ourselves. No one was fussy. Everyone was so hopeful and excited."

For over nine hours, Perrier never sat down " and she never noticed.

One of more than a million people, Perrier squeezed herself into a standing spot near the Reflecting Pool in front of the Capitol, right by a JumboTron and speakers.

When Obama spoke, she and the thousands who surrounded her jumped and screamed.

"It was really emotional," she said. "It set the stage for this transition of power unique to America. Listening to the newly sworn-in president was just awe inspiring. It was just amazing to be actually in the physical presence and one of the 1.8 or 2 million people."

When Rosie Sontheimer, an OU journalism and women's studies sophomore, arrived in Washington, D.C., from Norman, she was glad to be in similar company.

"I have to say, it is a sigh of relief to know that I am not alone, that there are other Democrats out there," she said. "In Oklahoma, I was constantly bombarded by a visage of McCain/Palin signs, but here, there is nothing but Obama/Biden. It's just so nice to be in a place where 'liberal' isn't considered a dirty word."

In D.C., Sontheimer was surrounded by thousands wearing Obama T-shirts, stocking caps, buttons and carrying Obama bags, signs and posters.

When Sontheimer stood in one line to buy inauguration souvenirs, a person she talked to did not believe she was from Oklahoma.

"He was so astonished that someone from my state was actually enthused enough about Obama being elected to show up," she said. "In a way, I feel like my friends and I are proving to the rest of the country that there are some Oklahomans who support Obama."

For Shay Klusmeyer, an OSU junior also in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration, the event brought forth different emotions.

"I have mixed feelings about the inauguration," he said. "As a conservative, I am not fond of Barack Obama's domestic politics. On the other hand, it is great to see a uniter like him, one who can bring people together for a greater good, which we hope he will achieve.

"Overall, I do wish President Obama good luck in the next four years, and I pray that his strategies and policies work." "Hailey Branson


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