Inauguration magical for one county native

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

January 20, 2009 will forever be a defining moment for one young Butler Countian.

Nneka Anoliefo, a public health environmentalist for the Butler County Health Department and a member of the Butler Optimist Club, was one of the thousands of Americans who congregated in Washington, D.C. to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and certainly one I will never forget,” Anoliefo said.

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Anoliefo traveled to the nation’s capitol the Saturday prior to the inauguration and stayed with a friend from her college days at Auburn, Tasha Hurndon, in Annandale, Va., through the following Wednesday morning.

“We attended Sunday’s concert, which was amazing. We had the special treat of hearing President Obama speak there, and then again at the Inauguration on Tuesday morning,” Anoliefo said.

With the huge crush of visitors for the special occasion, she added, “it was imperative to arrive early at all events and we took the Orange Line on the Metro to both events.”

Even though they arrived bright and early at 5:30 a.m. at the Metro station on the day of the Inauguration, they found some of the stations were already shut down.

“By the time we arrived at the National Mall, it was already extremely crowded and extremely cold,” she recalled.

“Everyone had blankets and loads of layers of clothes.”

The Jumbotron screens stationed on the Mall allowed even those at a great distance from the proceedings to get a good view, Anoliefo said.

“There were a lot of people there, but thankfully, nothing negative happened at either event,” she said.

“That was mostly due to the organizational and strategic planning that obviously went into the event. Police monitored the amount of people in the Metro stations at a time to avoid some danger and helped a lot.”

While it was an altogether memorable time, Anoliefo recalled one of her favorite moments was on Sunday prior to the concert.

“Three helicopters flew overhead and suddenly, one landed while the other two flew away. Apparently, it was President Barack Obama because they travel in groups of three with two decoys. I thought that was so interesting,” she said.

She describes the overall feeling of the week as “a magical experience.”

“Seeing the celebrities and listening to our new president speak was amazing. I am finishing up my Masters of Public Administration degree at Troy University, so being in the Nation’s capitol where policies originate, was just so inspirational to me.”