SOUTH BRUNSWICK: Students are eyewitnesses to historic moment

By Davy James, Staff Writer
   A group of students and staff from South Brunswick High School was lucky enough to be among the close to two million people who converged upon the Mall of America to witness the historic presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., last week.
   Forty-four students and six chaperones from the Dead Presidents Society, the SBHS history club, made the trip and braved the crowds and freezing temperatures to get a first-hand look at history being made.
   ”It was amazing to be able to bring a group of students and provide this experience to them,” said club advisor and social studies teacher Corie Gaylord. “To be there with this group of kids was meaningful and we impressed upon them the importance of the moment, not just the inauguration, but how important it is to know what’s going on in the world and to participate.”
   The club has been holding fundraisers since the school year began to raise the money to pay for the trip. Through collecting donations and holding fundraisers at places like Major Car Wash and Confectionately Yours, students were able to defray the $525 per student cost.
   The group left the morning of Jan. 18 for the nation’s capital and visited numerous locations during their four-day trip, including the major monuments and the National Portrait Gallery.
   ”Being right there and seeing the monuments was amazing,” said senior Stanley Baguchinsky. “Standing there and looking down at the Mall of America and Capitol, it was almost like it was fake, like a painting. You see the Lincoln Memorial and you almost don’t think it’s real, so I had to stand there and touch it. They know how to build their monuments down there.”
   The group got up at 4 o’clock on the morning of the inauguration to make the trek from the hotel in Maryland. They ended up getting a spot about one-half mile away from the podium where the new president gave his inaugural address. The group handled the cold temperatures with blankets and hand warmers, but some students had more trouble than others.
   ”The cold started to get to me and I was getting ticked off,” said junior Saadia Ahmad. “But once it started, it was all worth it. I though that I’m here and it’s worth it to see this, whatever we have to endure.”
   Given the large number of people and the cold, the atmosphere could have been negative. However, it was quite the opposite.
   ”The feeling of it in the crowd was awesome,” said Emily Sears, a junior. “Everybody was really friendly, excited and respectful of each other. Everybody was just happy to be there. You could tell by looking around that people realized the significance.”
   Once the festivities began the group was among those in attendance who groaned during the botched oath between President Obama and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts.
   ”Everyone was asking, What just happened?” Stanley said. “People just cringed and gasped, but started clapping and laughing once they made it through.”
   Once President Obama began his speech, the students focused in on his message.
   ”So much of what he said I felt applied directly to me,” Saadia said. “I felt what he said and I was shivering, but not from the cold. When you’re moved by something and it gets to you, it just makes you think everything applies to your own life and you want to try to make a difference.”
   Almost miraculously, the group of 44 students, which was broken into smaller groups for the chaperones, managed to stay together the entire time despite the enormous crowd.
   ”It was almost fun to see the amount of people in a good mood,” Stanley said. “We were just taking over streets. With the number of people on them no cars could get through.”
   Given the significance of the event, the students were cognizant of the fact that they would carry the events of the day with them for the rest of their life.
   ”The whole time I knew that this was something really important,” Saadia said. “I just focused on everything that happened so when I look back on this in 20 or 30 years I’ll remember how I felt that day. It’s something that I always want to remember.”