All politics is local: Barnwell County people take in presidential inauguration

The freezing temperatures and massive crowds didn't stop some Barnwell County residents from attending a historic event in U.S. history - President Barack Obama's inauguration.

"African-Americans were shut out for so long and now to see an African-American in the White House that slaves built; I'm proud to be an American who had the opportunity in my life to witness how much our nation has progressed," said Teresa Jenkins of Barnwell.

Jenkins - along with relatives Cherise Jacobs, Jhordan Jenkins and Alean Odoms -were present for the Jan. 20 inauguration of nation's 44th president.

Planes buzzed overhead and participants' icy breaths drifted upward towards rooftops where Secret Service men kept a watchful eye on the crowd.

Media outlets reported 25,000 law enforcement officers from 58 federal, state and local agencies worked security for the event.

"It was freezing cold - and you could barely move from one side to the other," said Jenkins of the crowd. "It was a sea of people and you could see no end to them- it stretched all the way back to the Washington Monument."

But despite a crowd of about two million people packed into the Washington Mall and the surrounding area of three blocks - a sense of pride and optimism helped keep the event peaceful.

"There was an amazing sense of togetherness. It was like being at a football game and everyone was cheering for the same team," said Tim Moore, Jr. of Barnwell.

Moore - A Barnwell attorney and the former head of the Democratic Party in Barnwell County - heading toward Washington D.C. with his wife Scottie, Saturday, Jan. 17.

The couple stayed with family in McLean, Va. near the Capitol.

"There are certain things you want to do in life and this is one of them," said Moore, of the inauguration.

He recalled the early morning train ride to the event on the Metro rail system.

"There were so many trains going that everything got backed-up. It was ‘stop-go, stop-go' the whole ride." Moore said. "What was normally a 20 minute ride turned into an hour and 45 minute ride," said Moore.

It was the clogged Metro that prevented Holly Rimes of Kline and her nine-year-old son Tyler from witnessing the inauguration ceremony.

Rimes said her decision to attend the inauguration was "very, very last minute."

A friend of Rimes, Dr. Mary Hughes, has a sister who worked on Obama's campaign and had extra tickets to one of the inaugural balls and offered them to Rimes, she said.

Finally, on Jan. 15, five days before the inauguration, Rimes decided to go, leaving on Jan. 18. Rimes is originally from the Alexandria, Va. area and knew her way around Washington D.C., she said.

The day of the inauguration, the Metro was so overwhelmed that stations in about a six-block area surrounding the National Mall were closed for two hours due to the crowds, she said.

The closings trapped Rimes and her son at a Metro station in Virginia. Mother and son returned to her aunt's house in the Mount Vernon, Va. area to watch the inauguration on the television, she said.

However, Rimes said they caught the spirit of the historic moment.

"How many times are you going to be able to say, ‘I was there when the first black president was sworn in?'" she said. "It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime things like the first lunar landing or the first shuttle flight."

Moore was approximately 500 feet within distance of Obama when he took the oath of office as icy winds blew across the Potomac River.

"It was the most orderly crowd I have ever been in. There was no pushing, fighting or foul language," Moore said.

People from all walks of life - young and old, rich and poor - were in the crowd and the positive spirit of the occasion overshadowed politics, he said.

"It was impressive seeing that many Americans with the hard times going on who were optimistic - it was uplifting," said Moore.

Rimes felt a similar spirit in the crowd.

"The electricity in the air was incredible - the whole coming together," Rimes said. "It was a different Washington than I have known. It was a whole different town. There was no violence."

Rimes said traveling to Washington D.C., that she started seeing electronic traffic control signs warning of congestion because of the inauguration crowds as early as the North Carolina state line.

"I would not have expected it in North Carolina," she said.

Later in the evening, Moore and his wife, Scottie, were at the Biden Home States Ball.

The Moores found themselves standing 12 feet away from the president.

Both looked on as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama danced slowly.

"It was a good experience and I'm glad I went - I'll probably be too old to go to another one," quipped Moore.

The experience of the inauguration is something that will remain with 12-year-old Chris Bozard, a student at Guinyard-Butler Middle School in Barnwell.

Although he is a young Republican and favored Republican candidate John McCain in the presidential election, Bozard welcomed the opportunity to see history being made.

He traveled to the nation's capitol with other youth as part of the Junior Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference.

"Once we got off of the bus it was pretty crazy," said Bozard. "No matter where you looked, there were people. There were people selling food, disposable cameras, buttons and shirts."

Some of the children Bozard were with had their wallets pickpocketed.

"And some (children) got trampled (when a barrier broke), but other than that it was OK," said Bozard. "It's kind of weird because with that many people together you wouldn't expect them to be so respectful to each other."

Bozard said when Obama took his oath of office there was dead silence, followed by a deafening roar from the crowd when the oath was completed.

For Jenkins, seeing Obama sworn into the highest office in land was a dream made reality because she supported him from the start.

"The occasion was like a gate to a better tomorrow," said Jenkins.

It was a sentiment felt by many at the inauguration.

"As I was leaving I saw a Caucasian man waving the American flag in the air and he told me, ‘Now we can hold it up with pride again.'"

Managing Editor Tim Hicks contributed to this article.