Locals travel to D.C. for historic event

ELYRIA They don't have tickets. They didn't book hotel rooms. But they will be there -- at ground ze
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010



They don't have tickets. They didn't book hotel rooms. But they will be there -- at ground zero for a historic moment in American history.

"We've become one," said Jean Gillette, 63, who works as a custodian at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School in Sandusky. "Not whites, not blacks, not Hispanics -- we'll all be there squished together."

Gillette was one of a handful of stalwart Sandusky residents who traveled to Elyria to board a bus bound for Washington D.C. late Monday night.

Though nobody in the group had tickets to get into the gates around the mall, just being in Washington for the inauguration festivities was enough. Gillette decided she wanted to go to be part of the moment so she could share her experience with the children at the school.

"We might not get close, but we'll be there," Gillette said.

Traci Washington-Taylor, 40, Sandusky, brought her 15-year-old daughter, Raven Dopson, with her on the trip.

"We're on the verge of change, and it's historic," Washington-Taylor said.

As for the inauguration, Washington-Taylor said she didn't have many expectations for today.

"My expectations begin when I get back," she said. "I want to see movement."

Like Gillette, she conceded she probably wouldn't get close enough to see much tomorrow, but at least her daughter will be able to someday tell her children she was there.

"The younger generation doesn't have a good idea of how things were, so it's important to take them there to show them how important this is," Washington-Taylor said.

Raynell Bates, 41, Sandusky -- like most of the 55 Sandusky, Elyria and Lorain residents who piled onto the bus wearing layers of clothing, gloves and hats -- just wanted to be part of the inauguration in any way she could.

"It's a moment in history -- the first African-American president," she said.

While the group that left from Elyria will only be in Washington long enough for the inauguration, other area residents spent several days in the nation's capital, warming up for the event.

Melanie Johnson of Castalia left Columbus on Sunday night with The Ohio State University marching band. The junior trumpet player said she spent Monday venturing around the city, seeing sights like the Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the White House. The band will play in the inaugural parade today.

"It might be bad to say, but I was more excited about the parade than going to the bowl game," she said. "Not everyone who's been in the band has been able to be in or go to the inauguration parade. This is way more historical and indescribable."

Norwalk mayor Sue Lesch said she did a dry run of her inauguration plans Monday with her 14-year-old granddaughter, Ally. She said the atmosphere in the nation's capital was electric Monday afternoon.

"It's absolutely amazing. People here are just so excited and so happy," she said. "Everyone has a common goal here, and it is thrilling to be here."

Seventeen-year-old Ashley Alejandro was just one of those excited people in the crowd.

The Clyde High School senior was invited to the inauguration after attending the National Youth Leadership Forum law conference last summer in Washington.

On Sunday, she attended the All-Star concert in the Washington Mall with a group of students from the leadership forum.

"It was so cool," she said. "There was tons of people there, and everybody was singing and dancing along to the music."

Tonight, she will don a long sequined dress to attend one of the inaugural balls held at the Smithsonian.

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