Students visit D.C. for inauguration


With a crowd of 1.8 million people, the inauguration of President Barack Obama will certainly go down in history as one of the most well-attended presidential inaugurations.

Among the throngs of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the event were several NMU students, one of whom was Marcella Krupski, a senior political science major.

“When (Obama) was sworn in, everyone around me started high-fiving and giving hugs,” said Krupski, who recently took time off from school to help with the Obama campaign as well as Congressman Bart Stupak’s campaign. “All these people were hugging me and I was like, ‘I have no idea who you are.’ To see these old women crying, thinking they would never see the day when an African American would be sworn in as the president of the United States, it was a really touching moment.”

Krupski was offered tickets through Stupak’s office, as was Jason Morgan, a sophomore political science and international studies major who also helped with the congressman’s campaign.

Both students were given blue tickets, and were able to watch the inauguration in a standing area behind the seated guests.

“As he was being sworn in, there was just a feeling in the crowd: It finally happened; he was finally president. George Bush was no longer president,” Morgan said. “It was a defining moment when everything came together . Everyone started hugging each other and crying.”

Once inside, Krupski stood on a small hill and shared a pair of binoculars with two men she hadn’t met before that day so the three of them could see the president during his speech.

Melissa Seelye, a freshman English, graduate bound major, was able to secure a ticket to the inauguration through the University Presidential Inaugural Conference, a program sponsored by the Congressional Youth Leadership Conferences, which Seelye had been invited to as a high school student.

Seelye left her hotel at 1 a.m. and arrived at 3 a.m., only to wait in line for five hours before being let through the gates. She said she’ll never forget what it was like being shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people, all waiting to see the same thing.

“It was unreal how many people were crammed down there waiting for the gates to open,” Seelye said. “There was a woman down there with her family, in her 60s, she was freezing, telling us she’s been in education for 40 years, and how she was there for segregation, how she fought to end it. She had tears in her eyes and she was crying, she was so happy to be there.

“That’s when it hit me how amazing this was,” she added. “It was amazing being there and sharing that with her. I don’t know if she made it onto the Mall, but she definitely deserved to.”

Thousands of people who had hoped to see the event first hand were unable to make it through security before Obama was sworn in, and many people with tickets in the standing areas couldn’t see the president at all. Krupski said there was still a comradery among the crowd that never wavered.

“These were the people that had been going door to door,” Krupski said. “Those guys that let me use their binoculars, they were two older men, they had been going door to door and making phone calls in their office in Maryland. I was so proud to be standing next to them, these people who had worked so hard on the campaign. It was a moment that can’t be surpassed.”

During Obama’s speech, Seelye said a hush fell over the enormous crowd.

“It was amazing how when Obama gave his speech, it just got silent,” she said. “Even people in the way far back could hear it. People were respectful. You could tell that everyone was really touched by what he was saying. They really wanted to hear it.”

And while these three students were able to actually enter the viewing area during the inauguration, two other ticket-holding Northern students were not so lucky.

A malfunction with some security equipment caused long delays in the blue and purple ticket lines, resulting in the exclusion of thousands of people who had tickets to the event.

After waiting for two hours in a line, Danielle Lehto, a senior photography major and blue ticket holder, had stopped moving.

The group she was with decided to step out of line to see how close they were to getting past the security. However, after making the decision to wait, since they could see the security gate, Lehto said she could hear the music being played just before the inauguration, so they decided to run so they would still have time to see it on a JumboTron.

Even though they ran, they didn’t make it in time. Instead of witnessing the event they had traveled hundreds of miles to see, they missed the entire ceremony.

“This happened to thousands of people,” Lehto said. “The purple tickets didn’t even make it out of the metro station.”

Jessica Butina, a senior psychology major, made it to the purple gate before being stuck in line for two hours without moving.

“I think the defining moment I knew I wasn’t getting in was when Jesse Jackson got turned away,” Butina said. “I figured if Jesse wasn’t getting in, then neither was I.”

Rather than run to a JumboTron, Butina ended up listening to Vice President Joe Biden being sworn in over her cell phone. Her mother was on the other end, holding her phone up to a television so her daughter could listen.

“There was probably 10 of us huddled around my cell phone, trying to hear this one swearing in,” she said. “People were checking with us to see what was going on. It felt like a weight was lifted off our shoulders, because (Former Vice President Dick) Cheney was gone.

“And then we watched Bush’s helicopter fly over and it was just like, ‘Peace. We’re done. We get to start over.’ It doesn’t matter where I was, I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.”

Butina listened to Obama’s speech being blasted through speakers in the back of a van.

“I listened to that huddled with about 50 to 100 people,” Butina said. “It was right in the middle of the speech when people would yell things like, ‘Obama shirts two for five’ and everyone would say shhh.

“I couldn’t even describe the atmosphere,” she added. “We’d just been ejected, told our tickets are no good. All of us were sad, but hearing Obama speak, we were clapping after the things he said, knowing that it’s a better four years to come.”