Though the atmosphere at Friday’s presidential inauguration was subdued, even solemn, the joy experienced by the O’Neal family, who live in Forsyth County, could not be contained.
“It was very cool to see Donald Trump get inaugurated,” said Kirkland, 11, a fifth-grade student with a love for American history.
Rubbing shoulders with politicians, watching the presidential motorcade roll by, staying in a hotel just blocks from the White House and attending the inauguration were, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime moments for the family.
Kirkland even shared the experience with his classmates back home in real time via a web camera. He said he planned to brag about his experience when he returns to school next week.
Harrison, 19, a student at the University of North Georgia in Cumming, said the cordial affair was surprising in some ways.
“There wasn’t too much pomp,” he joked. “I’ve seen more decorations on the Fourth of July.”
Harrison won an oratorical contest for a speech on the U.S. Constitution he gave last year, and his passion for politics and government is something he inherits from his father, Patrick.
“We’re very interested in our government and constitution,” Patrick said. “I kind of set it up to not only be an event the family could go to together but also an educational trip.”
And that’s exactly what it was for Harrison.
“Regardless of my own political affiliation, I think it was very cool to witness the peaceful transition of democratic power,” he said.
Patrick said the family stood about 500 yards from the presidential podium where the swearing in ceremony was conducted, tucked between the Capitol and the famous reflecting pool.
“We did run into a few protesters, but mostly it was vendors selling Trump paraphernalia,” Patrick said.
For mom Janet, the experience is a family memory that will live on long after she and her husband are gone.
“Words can’t even begin to portray,” she said about the opportunity to show her two children Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day. “Just being able to witness it was an honor.”