Rock Hill residents take break from home to witness Obama’s second inauguration

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 20, 2013 

— Bad fish and a bout of food poisoning got in Mattie Hunter’s way four years ago when she paid upfront for a “once in a lifetime” trip to witness President Barack Obama’s first inaguration live.

Hunter, a Rock Hill resident who collects jackets, flip flops, replicas of airplanes and any other memorabilia that bears the nation’s first black president's name, could barely move her head the morning before she was supposed to join a bus tour to the nation's capitol to watch history unfold in 2009.

Instead, after eating just “one piece of fish,” she spent the entire day in the ER.

But, "this time” — Obama’s second swearing in— “I was determined I wasn't going to miss it," she said Sunday while waiting in a line at the Old Country Buffet in Annapolis, Md.

Fewer people are expected to swarm the U.S. Capitol Building than the crowds that flooded the ceremony in 2009, making it the largest attended inauguration in the country’s history, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Predictions of lower turnout aside, Hunter, 58, was sure she would be in the number this year. So much so that on Tuesday she called a woman organizing a bus ride to D.C. from Charlotte in hopes of finding an empty spot on the caravan.

“I told her I didn't care how much it cost, I was going," Hunter said with the same tenacity that secured her seat this week. "It's history...it's something I'll probably never see again in my lifetime."

With that in mind, she boarded the bus at 4 a.m. Saturday, spent about 12 hours on the road with more than 100 other travelers and, after touring the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, settled into a hotel. Her schedule on Sunday was just as packed with trips planned to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and an outing to the zoo.

“I’m having a wonderful time,” she said, adding that her trip to D.C. was an item on her “bucket list” that she can now cross out. “It feels absolutely wonderful.”

Hunter – who took a week off from work during the Democratic National Convention and volunteered for the president’s campaign in the most recent election cycle – said she cried when she learned he had been reelected.

"I thought it was one of the most amazing things," she said. The inauguration, she stressed, “is still a historical event.”

Amanda Hackney will tell you the same.

Hackney, administrative coordinator for Winthrop University’s College of Arts and Sciences, drove to Stafford, Va., with her 10-year-old daughter, Sophie, to stay with friends who will join them today at the inauguration ceremony.

It’ll be a first for the 32-year-old Hackney, who proudly admitted that she, like Hunter, supports Obama.

“It’s an experience to see any president being inaugurated,” she said. “He’s got a second term and that’s also record-breaking. The novelty hasn’t worn off.”

Still expecting crowds, Hackney and her friends started putting together a plan of action Sunday night, one that included leaving Stafford, just south of D.C., at 3 a.m. today, boarding the metro at 4 a.m. and standing in line to watch Obama publicly take his second oath of office at noon.

“If you wait too long, it can become impossible” to get near the ceremony, she said. “I’m glad it’s not going to be snowing; it’s going to be cold but I don’t think it’s going to be too bad.”

“If we can muster the energy,” Hackney and Sophie will return to Rock Hill first thing Tuesday, she said.

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