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Tired but happy and still relishing the excitement of taking part in an event that will be forever recorded in both the history books and in their hearts, a bus load of Kentuckians headed home Monday night from Washington D.C., where they attended the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.
The charter’s 40 passengers included about 10 people from Shelby County who had journeyed to the nation’s capitol to attend the festivities, an experience some of them said they would never forget.
“I’m so happy I came; it was an incredible experience,” Velesia Cardwell of Shelbyville said during a phone interview as the bus rolled down the highway toward home. “But I’m so tired, most of us are asleep now.”
Evette Beasley, who had also attended President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, said this year’s event was everything she had hoped for and more.
“It was amazing, just amazing,” she said. “The crowds, the excitement – I was so excited, I didn’t even notice the weather. I do remember the sun was shining, though.”
The weather had not been bad on the weekend, she said, but temperatures dipped into the low 40s on Monday, which was also Martin Luther King Day.
The 57th inauguration, a weeklong series of events at the nation’s capitol, culminated with the oath of office on the steps of the capitol building, marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statute of Freedom atop the capitol dome in 1863.
Obama’s 18-minute inaugural address to the nation, which the crowd of some 600,000 watched on large screens on the National Mall, emphasized that “our journey is not complete.”
The president said the nation must set an unwavering course toward prosperity and freedom and continue every effort to provide for the poor, the elderly and the needy.
"Our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it," he said. "We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.
Obama proclaimed the ending of a decade of war and of the economic recession.
“It was a great speech, very inspirational,” Beasley said.
After the inaugural parade, Beasley and the others did a little sightseeing. On their first sightseeing jaunt on Saturday, they had been surprised to encounter another Kentuckian in the midst of the milling crowds on the streets of D.C.
“We looked up, and there was Lt. Gov. [Jerry] Abramson,” she said. “We said hello, and he stopped to talk to us. We had a very nice visit with him.”
Cardwell described the entire experience as a “big thrill.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect going into it, but it was just great,” she said. “We got to meet so many people, and the excitement of the crowd was so contagious. We had a really great time.”
Beasley said that even though the crowd was not as dense as it was in 2009, when nearly 2 million people packed the mall, the event was just as thrilling as the first.
“I got to see him sworn in both times, and that was a huge deal for me,” she said.
Apparently, the entire group felt the same, as they sang inspirational hymns on the bus on the way home, Beasley said.