Dispatches from Washington

Evonne Morici, a teacher at Skyline High School, took a group of about 13 kids to Washington, D.C. this week.  I asked if she and the students could tell us about their experiences. Here’s what has come in so far. -Katy

One of the most amusing moments on the Mall today was when I overheard a high school girl from Washington, D.C. commenting on the reason Vice President Cheney was in a wheelchair. Apparently, he threw out his back while putting on boxers. Later, when I incredulously repeated the tale, my classmates corrected me. He threw out his back while carrying boxes! — Elaina Wi, 10th grade, Skyline High School

Attending the 44th presidential inauguration today was inspirational. My school and I had an early wake-up and headed off to the Capitol, about 35 miles away from the hotel we’re staying at. The streets were all congested by spectators heading to the Mall, where mega screens were erected to display the inaugural events live.

We wove in and out of the sea of people to get as close to a screen as possible, which proved highly difficult and tiring. The crowd didn’t want to move from their positions, taller folks were blocking the views of the shorter folks, and people that left to the restrooms on the perimeter of the park couldn’t make their way back to where they were.

Everyone was there for the same reason — to celebrate in the wake of the next president of America — but our sentiments were suppressed by the freezing temperature and lack of space until Obama and Biden made their appearance. I managed to separate from my group for the latter half of our six hour stint to join an enthusiastic crowd beneath one of the screens. I was bothered by the cold and prolonged standing period, the neck pain generated from looking up at the unclear pixelated screen.

However, when Obama took his stand and declared his inspirational, touching, charismatic speech, everything changed. I felt the spirits of everyone uplift around me and within myself while we witnessed the exchange of national leadership to a man that won the popular vote back in November. I cheered and applauded with the flag-waving masses in favor of Obama. It became emotional and surreal as we can all hail President Obama. Although (unfortunately) I stood half a mile away and couldn’t see him live, I felt the presence of OUR national leader. It’s a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Making our way back to the bus was ridiculous. The streets were jammed by people and barricaded by officials. Our initial path didn’t seem to move so we headed back and into another street that was moving and got separated from some of our group members. At the end, we managed to get back to our bus. We were lucky in comparison to those thousands that took the Metro which was closed due to the amount of commuters. We saw people walking on the freeways back and being stopped by police because their mode of transportation was taken away. Jonathan Trinh, 16, Skyline High School

Dear Ms. Morici-

Thank you sooooo much for taking our children on this fabulous trip. It was a very special day and I have to say, tears came to my eyes several times watching it live from my computer knowing not only that we were witnessing a great moment in history but that my son, along with his classmates, was present to experience it, up close, for real! I truly hope you were able to get into the main event, and I am so grateful to hear that all the kids are exhibiting their best behavior for you. Hats off to you and what you have accomplished! Let’s have a party when you guys return. I’m already volunteering our house. Let me know if you are interested! Britta Campbell, Skyline parent, in an e-mail to Morici

What a great day! I want you to know that your children have been stellar. They are wonderful travelers who are making the most of every moment. I am so proud of the way they have stayed together and looked out for one another. Today could have been very scary. The crowds were tremendous. You’ll be pleased to know, we are all back safe and sound at the hotel. We will have some “down” time tonight in preparation for a full day tomorrow. I feel truly blessed to have shared this experience with such a great group of kids. — Morici, in an e-mail to parents this afternoon

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.