For most people the experience of a lifetime can be a lot of things like climbing a tall mountain or finally scoring the Rolling Stones tickets for the show they have never seen.
For Richmond native Clarrissa Taylor, it was much bigger than that. Taylor got to witness last Tuesday the first African-American man to be sworn in as President of the United States.
Taylor, who now lives in Baltimore, Md., made the trip to Washington, D.C. with co-workers and a college friend from Iowa State University where she attended college. The trip began at about 5 a.m. that morning. She said they knew they had to leave early from what they had experienced the Saturday before when Obama’s train came through Baltimore. She said she could only get within three blocks of where Obama spoke.
Taylor said the typical trek to the Capitol usually takes no more than an hour and 10 minutes. However, she said it took more than three hours to reach their destination.
She said they could only drive so far before it was necessary to take a train. Taylor said she could not believe the amount of people waiting for the train.
“We were fairly surprised,” she said. “It felt like we were behind a million people. We thought we were getting up early.”
Taylor said it was so crowded that her and her friends locked arms to stay together. She said for the most part people were well behaved.
She said once they arrived at the Mall in front of the Capitol Building they had to hop over walls in an attempt to get closer, but they were still far away. She said they watched and heard the ceremony from jumbo screens and speakers nearby.
Taylor said the atmosphere was festive despite cold temperatures. She said most people put the cold out of their minds.
“I was just full of joy. It was a wonderful feeling,” she said. “Everybody was echoing the same thing. Everybody had a smile on their face and everybody knew why they were there, and everybody knew what they were experiencing. I’m sure for a split second everybody forgot about how cold they were.”
Taylor said it is hard to describe how she felt during the moment.
“I was just so overwhelmed with emotion because it didn’t feel real,” she said. “I never thought in a million years that America would elect an African American person as its President.”
She said the crowd went crazy when President Obama took his oath of office, but fell silent when he spoke.
“When President Obama began to speak, with all of those people, you could hear a pin drop,” she said.
Taylor said it took her and her group almost as long to leave the ceremony as it did to get there, but would do it all again if given the chance.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.
Clarrissa Taylor in front of the Capitol. (Submitted photo)