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History in the making
Finally the news came. It was a Friday, fourth block and there was about 15 minutes left in the day. Mr. Day came on the loud speaker and everyone knew it had to be news of what had happened. Yet he had no enthusiasm in his voice and he did not seem excited in the least. Everyone thought they knew what was about to be announced, “You guys gave it your all, but it just was not enough. We are very proud of your efforts.” But that was the opposite of what happened. “Congratulations, the Brattleboro Union High School band is heading to Washington D.C. for Barack Obama’s Inaugural parade!” The classrooms erupted with cheers. We ran into the hall jumping for joy and screaming to each other, “WE’RE GOING TO D.C.!!”
In the beginning of October, our band teacher Mr. Rice informed us that we would be applying to represent Vermont in our 44th presidents Inaugural Parade. Everyone was in awe. You could have heard a pin drop it was so silent, but that did not last long. We all went nuts. We just couldn’t control ourselves, “You mean we might actually be going to D.C.” or “We’re going to see and perform for the president?” were just a few of the many astonished thoughts going through our minds. But then reality set in and more realistic thoughts popped up, “We are just a high school band we could never get in” or “that’s like one in a million chance of us, BUHS, getting into that parade” The facts showed that these were more realistic thoughts. Mr. Rice told us that we hade a 7-10% chance of getting into the parade and that Norwich University had represented Vermont in the last three Inaugurations. We were not looking so hot. But that did not matter; we were still going to put all we had into making this experience happen.
That’s when we started the application process. There were four parts: pictures of the band in formation, a recording of the pieces we would perform during the parade, an essay of past marching performances and of what the band is all about, and finally a video of the band marching and playing. No easy task when the application was due in a month. But we were up for the challenge and completed it with time to spare.
Even though we were done with the application, we weren’t done pleading our case. Our community was beginning to get involved and you know what that meant, Brattleboro was there to support 120%. They started writing letters to congressmen, senators, anyone who would be of help to our cause. After letters and letters being sent up north, we received three letters back from our three Vermont U.S. Representatives giving us their support and endorsement. This gave us a huge boost above the rest of the applicants from Vermont.
Finally the news came and it was the most defining moment of my life. We rushed down to see Mr. Rice at his office. The press was going ballistic over the news, and the band just couldn’t be happier. It was the end of the week though and we had to wait until the following Monday to discuss our plans for the trip. The weekend seemed to last forever. we couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom and discuss what had just transpired and what we would need to do to accomplish everything before going to D.C.
Monday could not have come any later, yet it was finally here and there was so much to talk about. The most important thing was the $60,000.00 we had to come up with in just about a month. We knew though that with a town like Brattleboro, anything was possible. So we got right to work. Several radio stations wanted interviews, Burlington 5 news station came down to tape one of our rehearsals, and many newspapers ranging all the way to Keene wanted stories about the upcoming journey.
The town couldn’t have been a bigger help. Our first huge fundraiser was a cabaret festival down at the New England Youth Theater. This was the starting point and from then on it was a breeze. We sent out letters to Corporations asking for donations and endorsements, family members and community members all sent out their donations and by the time early January rolled around we knew that we had made it. But it was not before a huge, all proceeds go to the BUHS band, fundraiser concert. At the Latchis Theater about a week before we left, James Montgomery and Johnny Winter, well-known musicians, came to Brattleboro and gave us an amazing performance. The theater was packed with everyone in support of the BUHS band. We had achieved our goal plus some and we were ready for our journey down to Washington D.C. But fundraising was not the only necessity needed to get down to D.C.
Even though we had applied for this event and been accepted, we still had a ton of work that needed to be accomplished come January 20th. This meant giving up a couple Saturdays, extra long marching practice in the freezing cold, and double the sectionals. But after all the hard work and all the fundraising we put into that long and grueling month, we had finally made it.
On the day of our departure, a Sunday, we arrived at the school at around 5:30. We had our hanging bags in our left hand, our instruments in our right hand, our duffle bags slung over our shoulder, and to top it all off, it was just beginning to snow. Our chaperones triple checked everything we had and then checked everything again when we were all on the bus. And then we departed at approximately 6:00, saying our final goodbyes to family and friends who had made the trek out to wish us farewell.
The first two days we were there, we toured the city, walked the parade route, and just took it all in. Finally the morning of the Inauguration came and we were ready. It was 8:00. And we were leaving our hotel for the last time before the parade. While heading to our destination to be officially checked in, we made a slight detour taking the wrong exit. Not a good idea. We were going in the exact opposite direction of where we needed to be and we had to get off the next exit or we would not be playing in the inauguration parade. The only problem was that there were two police cars blockading the exit where we needed to go and they were not budging. If we did not get off that exit, we wouldn’t be performing in the Inaugural Parade. Mr. Rice would not take no for an answer and we sat there for a good ten minutes until the police men finally gave in and let us pass. Luckily that was our only delay for the bus ride. We finally arrived where we needed to be, but Mr. Rice had warned us about the wait and wait was right. Throughout the entire day we did about 12 hours of waiting and 20 minutes of marching. After going through our check of instruments and uniforms we boarded the buses again which would finally bring us to the parade starting point, but this was not before Mr. Al Roker of “NBC’s Today Show,” needed a ride over to the parade route. So he jumped on our bus and we all went together..
We arrived at our final destination minutes later and began our trek to the beginning of the parade route. After waiting around for about two-hours, we started moving and we did not stop. We reached the beginning of the parade to cheering and a thunderous voice, which said, “And now the Brattleboro Union High School Band from Brattleboro Vermont.” This really pumped us up, got us psyched, adrenaline roaring, and nobody was cold after that.
The parade seemed to go by in an instant, one second you’re standing in the freezing cold and the next you’re on the final stretch of parade route where you get to see the President. Rounding that final bend and having this huge spot light just wail you in the face was breath taking and that’s when I knew he was only fifty feet away. We had prepared for this exact moment for so long. We had planned a special routine so that he could hear both band pieces. We readied ourselves, and then he was there, we were marching by him, and then he was gone. Even though this was supposed to be the most exciting and memorable part of the parade, it was not. Right when we were passing him he turned around to greet someone. This really put a damper on the overall affect this moment had on us. But still, even though it was pretty unsatisfying to only see his back, we had still been chosen and marched in the Inaugural parade, and that is why this moment was the most defining moment of my life.
I had the chance to see the history that America had made, to understand that it takes all people to make this world round. And to know that when we want to, we can do what is right not only for ourselves but for our friends, family, community, and our country when we elected Barack Obama as our 44th President. I had the opportunity to experience all of this first hand, marching in the 2008 Inaugural Parade. This is definitely the most defining moment of my life.