Jim and Brienna Herold stand on the Washington Mall with the Capitol Building in back. They were in DC for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Submitted photo
Jim and Brienna Herold stand on the Washington Mall with the Capitol Building in back. They were in DC for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Submitted photo
WASHINGTON, DC - "The inauguration was more than I expected. There were a lot of people, and I was greatly impressed with the feeling of what it meant to be an American. If it had been a rock star with that crowd, the focus would be on one person's fame and mass celebration of how they project their form of fame. Here it was thousands of people celebrating America and the transition or reaffirmation of power-not focused on the singular but the plural that is us."

These words from Spring Valley Middle-High School art teacher, Jim Herold speak to just how powerful a Presidential Inauguration can be and the tremendous impact it had on him personally. Had it not been for his daughter Brienna, however, Jim might have been back in Spring Valley watching the event on his television along with the rest of us.

Brienna, a student at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC made this happen. "She just loves the DC world," said Jim adding, "Even before the election, she went to Congressman Ron Kind's office to see if she could get tickets to the Inauguration."

Kind was kind enough to accommodate her, and soon she found herself with two tickets in hand, and they weren't just any tickets. These tickets were for priority seating. So on Friday, January 18, Jim and Brienna (who was home on break) flew to our nation's capitol. Motels and hotels were booked to overflowing, but this was of no concern. "I stayed in the house where she lives on the Gallaudet campus. It was built in 1875 and is only a mile from the Capitol," explained Jim.

"It was very exciting. In addition to the Inauguration, it was also Martin Luther King Day. There were thousands of people there with so much pageantry; people were so happy just to be a part of it all," he said.
On Monday, after spending a weekend in DC with all its amazing sights, it was time to head to the Capitol Building. "We had to go through four blocks of metal detectors. The security was handled effectively and efficiently. When you see white chairs, those are for family members of Congress, but our spot was right behind those seats," Jim said.

Spaces were filing up as he and Brienna arrived, but they got there just at the right time-just in time to wait . . . for four hours. "There was every possible reason to be there, so everyone was patient and friendly, and the time just flew by," recalled Jim adding, "We were surrounded by so many warm bodies that we didn't even notice the wind."

Still, four hours seems like a long time to wait. "Not really," Jim insisted. "I heard some people had to wait three and half hours just to get on a subway."

And for Brienna who is hearing impaired, there was another added bonus. Jumbotrons were everywhere, and the one closest to Brienna and Jim came equipped with closed captions.

Jim shared some of his other impressions of his time in DC. "I listened in as one television interviewer asked a black man how he felt when he had no tickets to any event, most likely would not even see the Capitol Building let alone any individuals, and most likely would be on a side street. The man answered that as long as he was standing on the same ground that his President was standing while the President was being sworn in as 'The President,' he was proud to be American. And that man truly believed what he was saying."

Jim continued, "The feeling of greatness and of the moment was just one big crescendo. The energy of anticipation was electric days before the event. The crowd was very patient and very happy and accepting of anyone near them."

He was also impressed with the inauguration stage and the architecture of D.C and, "The theater of the events as time funneled people and celebrations down to the swearing. Everyone there processed and wrapped their heads around the days as fit their personal experience of being an American."

It's apparent that Jim was profoundly moved by experiencing history up close and personal, but what was the best part about the inauguration for Jim? Was it being so close to the President and other elected officials? Was it watching the Marine Corp Band and others perform? Was it the actual swearing in ceremony? While all these things are impressive, this is what Jim had to say about the highlight of those days. "Here is what stands out in his mind: I got to be with my daughter. I got to see DC with Brienna."