|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - January 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Witnessing a dream come true
Polk County Enterprise - January 2009
When President Barack Obama was sworn in Jan. 20 about two dozen Polk County residents were among the sea of people at the capitol. Joyce Terry of Livingston and her niece Dr. Faith Foreman of Houston attended the swearingin ceremony and many of the inaugural activities. Toni Williams led a group of 24 friends and family that took planes, trains and automobiles to be there when Obama took office. Attorney Pam Walker got a last minute ticket and drove 24 hours to attend. Joyce Terry’s sister Barbara Foreman lives in Washington D.C. and served as ambassador at some of the activities on the National Mall. The Terry family received tickets to the inauguration from a U.S. Congressman and were able to witness up-close many of the inauguration activities. “It was the trip of a lifetime,” Terry said. No one among the crowd of two million seemed to mind the lack of parking or cell phones or the cold. Barbara Foreman was assigned to check credentials of the entertainers and dignitaries arriving at the events. That gave Terry and her family a chance to see Beyonce, Jay Z, “Puffy”, Oprah, Muhammed Ali, Collin Powell, Martin Luther King III and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin among the honored guests attending various activities. The emotional trip instilled a new sense of hope and commitment in Terry. “In his historic message to the world, President Obama said that if one reaches out to America with an unclenched hand, we will extend our hand,” Terry added. “He called on all Americans to ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again to rebuild our great nation.’” Toni Williams of Livingston shepherded another group of 24 Polk County residents to the nation’s capitol. She often arranges trips for friends and family members and she went to work on trip logistics as soon as it appeared Obama would win. She knew the airports in Washington D.C. would be hard to reach so she started booking flights to Philadelphia in November. She reserved three 15-passenger vans for the 44 local people who intially said they wanted to go too.
By the time the plane took off for Philadephia on Jan. 18, the group had shrunk to 24 travelers. They included: Toni Williams, Jonnyce Williams, Jon Williams Molly Woods, Johnny Woods, Deenie Singleton, Kendrianna Simmons, Kathy Prescott Anderson, Brandon Prescott, Vinicia White, Eddie Brooks, Janice Brooks, Yolanda Harrell, Ricky Harrell Jr., April Fontenot, Stephanie Davis, Charlene Murry, Velma Jefferson, Bertha Baldwin, Annette Garrett, Kaneisa Bookman Brooks, Amanda Murry, Deanna and John Robb. Pam Walker, chief prosecutor of the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, learned shortly before the big day that a friend had an extra inauguration ticket and they began the 24-hour drive to Washington D.C. “I didn’t expect to be able to go but she had an extra ticket so we went,” Walker said. “It was definitely a privilege to attend.” Walker and her friend arrived Sunday morning and attended services at a local church. On Monday the two ladies rode the Metro train and planned their route to get to the swearing-in and did a little souvenir shopping. They caught a train at 3 a.m. Tuesday to get in line at the security check point and to their viewing area. They stood in the bitter cold for hours and by the time the ceremony was over Walker said she was ready to find some place to get indoors and eat. With that mission accomplished they returned to the hotel to prepare for the Mid Atlantic ball. Walker also was struck by how well-behaved this enormous crowd was. “Everybody was there to enjoy the moment,” Walker said. Williams and her group shuttled from the Philadelphia airport to the Baltimore train station by van at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. “It took an hour and a half to get on the train,” she said. While the Livingston group’s train was up on elevated tracks they stopped the trains to allow some of the crowd surging into the area to move out of the train station. “Despite the crowded situation, everyone was nice,” Williams said. “We watched the sun come up.”
The crowd inched along from the train station to the south side of the capitol. At that point, security teams were filtering out ticket-holders to the appropriate area and funneled others into a tightly packed tunnel headed for other viewing areas. Williams said the tunnel crowd was a little too much for her so she and some of the older members of the traveling party ducked into a restaurant where they could see TV broadcasts of the event a few blocks away. “Everyone in the restaurant was just swept away. We all cried,” Williams said. “We were happy to be in the restaurant and out of the cold so I kept ordering things. I didn’t care what it cost, I was going to be a customer for that restaurant.” “It was awesome. You could tell everyone was there with one common cause,” Williams said.
Janice Brooks said, “This was a wonderful historic moment and my heart swelled with pride, hope and prayers for our nation.” Deenie Singleton said witnessing this great event with a few special people in her life made it even more touching. “My very first preschool teacher, Bertha Baldwin, and her daughter Annette were with me. During the inauguration Mrs. Bertha whispered to me, ‘I’m so glad to be able to see this day. I remember telling you children back then to be all that you could be. Let nothing stop you.’” Molly Woods, who retired after 16 years as housekeeping supervisor of the local hospital, thought the trip was amazing. “Mr. Woods said it was the best trip he has ever taken. Even though I had a touch of pneumonia I had to go,” Molly Woods said. She had to use a wheelchair during part of the trip but felt it was well worth enduring any difficulties. “The closer we got to Washington — you could just feel it,” Woods said. “My co-worker Deanna Robb and I believe Barack’s message of change helped improve our working relationship and personal friendship making it that much stronger,” Singleton added. “There were millions of viewers braving the cold weather to witness the event,” Singleton continued. “Although it was very cold, there were plenty of warm hearts, hugs and big beautiful smiles out there. The bitter cold could not stop the American pride and spirit flowing that day.” Joyce Terry added that everyone was considerate and looking out for each other in the sea of people. A woman and child standing next to her were total strangers but the emotion of the moment brought out the nurse in her. The child was in a wheelchair and every time someone walked by it ruffled the blankets covering him. “I would just reach out and help her cover him back up and make sure he stayed warm. We were strangers but we were like family that morning,” Terry said. “As Americans looking toward our future we should not expect a messiah but we must all rally behind our messenger of hope,” said Janice Brooks. “Every citizen can accept the message to restore America’s greatness by uniting and working together to do what is best for our civilizations.
Yolanda Harrell said enduring the large crowds and cold weather was well worth it. While on the National Mall, Joyce Terry and her family were treated to performances by Aretha Franklin, Yo Yo Ma, and many other international stars and entertainers. “We were honored and privileged to have received tickets from the United States Congress,” Joyce Terry said. Joyce’s sister Barbara Foreman was an ambassador for the presidential inauguration committee. “We are all Polk Countians born and raised here by our mother, the late Ms. Dorothy Faye Charles,” Terry said. Terry and her family stayed four beautiful days with her sister Barbara in Baltimore. They caught the train into Washington for the great event. “The weather was cold but well worth being out in it for such an historic occasion. We were able to collect numerous souvenirs and memorabilia,” Terry said. “This was a lifetime experience for me. I consider myself as a kind-hearted and loving person but I took away from there the most deepest feeling of being loving and showing kindness and concern for my neighbors, sisters and brothers. I just felt an overwhelming compassion, love and a desire to be the best I could be from that day forward,” Terry said. “I will frame my invitation from the United State Congressman.”