EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 15, 2009

Local faces at inauguration

Sanborn High senior may meet Obama Saturday

Staff Reports

When President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office Tuesday, there will be plenty of Southern New Hampshire faces in the crowd.

It will be the second presidential inauguration for Jill Couillard, but this one is a little different since she helped elect Obama.

"I helped make history and now I get to witness it," the 18-year-old Kingston resident said.

Couillard, a senior at Sanborn Regional High School, will be flying to Washington on Saturday and will participate in the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference held before and after the event on Tuesday. She'll also attend a black-tie ball, where she's hoping to have an opportunity to shake the new president's hand.

Even though this will be Couillard's second inauguration, she says she's more interested in being a leader than getting involved in politics.

"It's more about trying to make my community a better place," Couillard said.

Her visit also will include a debate on the issues, which Couillard said she'll be preparing for during the plane ride.

Her trip to President George W. Bush's second inauguration in 2005 was a bit of a shock. This time, she said, she will be better prepared and hopes to get a better seat at the inauguration. Unfortunately, she was too far away to see Bush at the last inauguration, but saw him the next day while standing in the front row at a concert.

"Now that I'm a senior, I'm hoping I'll have more opportunities to do things," Couillard said.

Hundreds head out from Londonderry High

"We're psyched," said Andrew Soucy, director of music at Londonderry High. "We're nervous."

No question, Soucy — and the 280-piece marching band and color guard — thrive on big occasions. Not too many high school bands can boast they played atop China's Great Wall, as the Londonderry band did last summer. It's hard to compare the Olympics and China to Obama and Washington, D.C. But it's safe to say the Obama inauguration is so big the teens are sweating the practices. They want to make sure they give the new president their best.

"It's a really big deal. I've never seen a parade with so much detail," Soucy said. "This is a military operation."

Brian Schmidt, 17, who plays mellophone, sees playing for the new president as a chance to take part in history.

"I'm just excited about the whole thing," the Londonderry High senior said. "It means just basically, I was there for a historical moment for the United States."

Senior Alyssa Benesty, 18, said she isn't anticipating a single spectacular moment, but expects the whole parade will be the big moment.

"I'm incredibly nervous, but definitely excited," Benesty said. "We'll turn right in front of the president. I'm expecting us to be 10 times as loud as we always have been."

The send-off is something special, too. The band will have a police escort — and a Marine Humvee escort — when they leave for Washington, D.C., according to Pollyann Winslow, a spokeswoman for band events. The departure is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sunday from the high school. When the seven buses pull out of the parking lot on Mammoth Road, they will pass under a U.S. flag waving from a Londonderry Fire Department ladder truck. Winslow urges everyone to come see them off and bring a flag to wave.

Historic trip for Hampstead students

Thirty lucky eighth-graders from Hampstead Middle School have tickets to the inauguration. The students will stand in a section on the Mall where they should be able to hear Obama's inaugural address, teacher John Edmondson said.

They'll be closer to the Capitol than many of the millions of people expected to converge on Washington to see Obama take office. But they'll probably be standing in a section with 250,000 people.

The size of the crowd has captivated the youngsters.

Farah Butler, 13, wants to see the whole "crowd of people coming together." The biggest crowd she's ever seen so far has been at a Red Sox game, and she can't picture what this crowd — predicted to come close to 2 million — will look like.

Nathan Randall, 14, expects to see the nation's first African-American president take the oath of office and witness the moment when America changes political course.

"I think it's important for America to go in a different direction," he said, on matters including the civil rights movement and foreign wars.

"It's more just a feeling you get — essentially of hope, a feeling of the crowd and the words given by the president-elect," Nathan said. "There's not really anything you see or hear."

Ben Thomas, 13, thinks witnessing the inauguration will help him grow as a citizen. He visited Washington on his 10th birthday and saw the White House and the Capitol. This time, he expects the crowds will make the experience unique.

Katie Herron, 13, saw Obama speak at Mack's Apples last fall. She wants to see him take the oath of office.

Brianna Hoffman, 13, was not interested in politics until this campaign.

"I don't know why. I really got into it," she said. "He's the first African-American president."

Windham resident to see history made

For Windham resident and School Board member Mark Brockmeier, attending Obama's inauguration is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

"It's history," he said.

Barack Obama is the first African-American president and he has the opportunity to restore America's standing in the world, Brockmeier said. It's a time of great hope, he said.

Brockmeier, an Obama supporter, scored grandstand tickets to the inauguration speech and will watch about an hour of the parade before returning to Philadelphia.

He will be in Philadelphia on business, and with Washington, D.C., so close, he said he wants to be a part of history.

Staff writers Margo Sullivan, Eric Parry and Terry Date contributed to this report.