Area attendees make inauguration memories

Published: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 12:12 a.m.
Icy toes, snow and machine gun-toting police officers will share space with President George W. Bush in the memory banks of a host of Alachua County residents in Washington, D.C., for the second inauguration of the 43rd president of the United States.
The 30-degree temperatures along with a new blanket of snow that had fallen the day before put a serious chill into the bones of many of those from the Sunshine State.
But it didn't freeze their spirits. University of Florida junior Haley Marshburn and her roommate, Hallie Holcomb, a student from Santa Fe Community College, said they were inspired by the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
But as soon as the noontime affair was over, they skipped the parade.
"I thought my toes were going to fall off," Marshburn said.
A group of 18 students from Newberry High School were as fascinated with the white stuff as the "awesome" inauguration, said Kevin Purvis, a history teacher and dean of students at the school.
They left Gainesville by charter bus Tuesday afternoon so they would get in a day of sight-seeing before Thursday's events.
"The kids were in the Library of Congress and when they saw the snow falling then they were ready to get out of there," said Purvis on his cell phone Thursday evening even as some of his students - a mix of juniors and seniors - urged him to join in a snowball fight.
"They are not used to snow and they are dying to get me out there so they can drill me," he said.
Barbara Fuller, the former secretary of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, and her husband, Chris, ventured to the capital city for their first inauguration experience.
But security was so tight and lines were so long, the couple never made it inside the venue to watch the oath of office, even though they had a ticket.
No matter, Barbara Fuller said. "We could hear everything and we had fun in line," she said. "It was an awesome experience."
There was a benefit, however, to being on the outside.
"Since we were at the tail end, we got to the parade early," she said as she readied herself for a night of ballroom dancing at the Liberty Ball.
Micanopy City Commissioner Remzey Samarrai likely had the best seats of the Alachua County contingent, although he jokingly admits: "They were the worst of the best tickets."
And although Samarrai spends most of his time in Washington as a presidential appointee in the State Department, he said he had never seen security as tight as it was on Thursday.
"There were snipers on every single rooftop," Samarrai said. "I've never seen policemen with machine guns, but they had machine guns with shoulder straps and giant clips like you see in Rambo."
Charlie Grapski, a UF graduate student who had gone to protest the presidential inauguration and then participate as a panelist for a summit of Progressive Democrats of America, described a sea of thousands of police officers dressed in full "combat" gear.
"It was crazy," said Grapski, who was one of about 18 in his group, which included some of his students, who took a train to Washington for the protest.
There were so many people at the swearing-in ceremony that former Alachua County Commissioner Chuck Clemons and his wife, Jane, couldn't see much. Clemons was appointed by the president to be Florida's director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development program.
But they got better seats along the parade route.
"The president walked right by us," Clemons said.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at (352) 337-0327 or

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