WASHINGTON – It took only one word for Destiny Scott to sum up what it was like to witness a moment in American history.
“Overwhelming,” the 18-year-old Auburn resident said.
Scott and a dozen other students and chaperones from Maine’s Franklin Alternative School staked out a spot across the Capitol lawn and reflecting pool to watch President Obama take the oath of office for the second time.
Several hours and many miles of walking later, they were tired but still absorbing the sights and experiences of the previous 24 hours in the nation’s capital.
“It’s different, but it was amazing. I almost don’t want to go home,” Scott said with a smile.
Mainers participated in the inauguration at all levels, joining the cheering masses on the National Mall, pedaling and juggling their way past Obama in the official parade, and even speaking from the same podium as the president.
That honor went to Richard Blanco, a Cuban-born poet who lives in the western Maine town of Bethel. The official inaugural poet, Blanco delivered his poem “One Today” after the president’s speech.
In a simple acknowledgement of the other American who was honored nationwide on Monday — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — Blanco talked about the “‘I have a dream’ we keep dreaming” and the collective hopes of the nation.
The crowd was smaller than at Obama’s first inauguration, in 2009, but literally stretched for miles in front of the Capitol.
Many wore Obama pins, hats, scarves or stickers from the 2012 campaign.
Craig Hickman attended Obama’s inauguration in 2009 as a spectator. Now known as state Rep. Hickman among his constituents in Readfield and Winthrop, Hickman had a seat close to the stage Monday as one of Maine’s Electoral College voters.
On Sunday, Hickman said he believes people are still excited but would “wear that excitement differently” this year. On Monday evening, he said he believed the enthusiasm level was about as high as in 2009.
“The crowd, overall, may have been slightly smaller,” Hickman said. “But the Mall was as full as it was before, the ‘Obama’ chants were as loud and the president’s message resonated with everyone. It was a great event.”
Schoolchildren from Falmouth, the Aroostook County town of Hodgdon and other communities in Maine made the trip to Washington after receiving tickets from members of Maine’s congressional delegation.
The Franklin Alternative School got word about available tickets a little more than a week ago, and had to scramble to organize the trip. Teacher Pam Le said that, thanks to the generosity of groups in the area and an anonymous alumnus, they raised $3,600 in a weekend.
“I thought it would be a great experience for them,” Le said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Another group of young Mainers literally stood out from the crowd — about 6 feet above it.
Several dozen members of the Gym Dandies Children’s Circus in Scarborough pedaled their 6-foot-tall unicycles down Pennsylvania Avenue and past the president, Vice President Joe Biden and their families during the inaugural parade.
Gym Dandies Director Jon Cahill said it was a long day for the riders, beginning before 5 a.m. even though their part in the parade didn’t begin until 12 hours later. But Cahill said the entire experience was worth it for the young riders.
“We got a tremendous crowd response all along the route,” Cahill said. “And of course, riding in front of the president, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
As the sunlight faded and some Mainers donned tuxedos and gowns for the inaugural balls, one Maine resident completed a 700-mile run for charity.
Gary Allen of Great Cranberry Island reached the steps of the Capitol just after 7 p.m., two weeks after starting on top of Cadillac Mountain.
Allen, a competitive marathon runner, averaged 50 miles a day and raised more than $11,000 for the American Cancer Society, Wounded Warriors and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Exhausted and “broken,” Allen nearly collapsed when he reached the Capitol steps but eventually climbed to the top (after getting police permission) to pose for pictures.
Despite his intense pain and doubts, Allen said his supporters never allowed him to give up. “I felt like every step was a further investment in getting here.”
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: