While some were watching the excitement of President Barack Obama's inauguration on television, Exeter Township Senior High School students were braving the cold with the crowd of about 1.8 million attendees in Washington, D.C.A group of 91 people comprised of students, staff members and chaperones traveled to Washington through Smithsonian Student Travel. In addition to attending the inauguration, they visited museums and monuments in D.C. and Arlington Cemetery.
The students had signed up about a year ago to attend the inauguration, school officials said.
Brad Dalius, an 11th-grade student, said the group was about halfway between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.
The students and staff members watched the inauguration from a jumbotron.
Although Obama was just a speck in the distance, according to student Megan Michalak, it didn't stop their enthusiasm for the event.
Without a doubt, the day will be something they will always remember.
When the 11th-grade students were asked what they would remember most, Elle Burkert replied, "Experiencing the moment in which President Obama took his oath of office and when Chief Justice Roberts messed up the oath."
Brad Dalius said he would also remember when Obama was sworn in and witnessing history.
Michalak added, "I will remember the importance of this inauguration. I was there as history was made and I witnessed one of the greatest accomplishments of our time. I will remember how proud I was to be an American."
It was also a special last trip for Alys Robertson, the Social Studies department chair who teaches U.S. government. Robertson is retiring at the end of the school year.
"I have seen the word 'electricity' being used time and time again and as far as I am concerned, it is the perfect word to describe Inauguration Day," Robertson said. "People were extremely kind and patient everywhere we went despite the huge crowds. I don't think the lives of the students who went on the trip will ever be quite the same."
She said despite the crowds, the group didn't feel hurried.
Burkert said that she waited in line for an hour and a half to get food.
Robertson said that during a mock election at Exeter, Obama overwhelmingly won the vote for president.
Obama's campaign touted change in the country and Exeter students echoed this sentiment.
"I voted for Obama because he was just so different and I liked the changes that he wanted to make," Burkert said.
Burkert said that during the inauguration she kept on thinking about the huge crowd and and "the excitement because this was the start of change."
Dalius said, "I truly believe that Obama will bring about true change to this country and will lead us into a (different) era of politics."
He said that he thinks these changes will include re-establishing how America is viewed around the world, implementing diplomacy, using the military less frequently and lead the country out of the recession.
Burkert also said she thinks Obama will help the country's economic issues.
Michalak added, "I think he has a lot of great ideas and I believe that even the fact of him becoming the first African American president will only inspire and encourage more ideas, from him and from other people."
In addition to attending the inauguration and touring monuments, the students also attended an inaugural ball.
Burkert said that the group saw students from the age of 8 to 18 and some of the attendees were from California, Montana, New Jersey and Ohio.