Originally Published: January 22, 2009 10:19 p.m.
Patti Allen-LaFleur treated the 680 students at Chino Valley's Del Rio Elementary School Friday morning to a firsthand report on Tuesday's inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president.
Allen-LaFleur, the school's computer literacy teacher and television studio supervisor, was one of the approximately two million people who crowded into Washington, D.C. to witness the historic event.
She showed her two-minute video and slide show and report of Tuesday's inauguration at the start of the school day over KDRN, the school's TV station. Her show included photos and video she and her husband, Steve LaFleur, took of people from Alaska to Florida, and Belgium and Germany telling why they were there.
"I hope the students will see how many people went out of their way to go to (Washington) D.C. to watch the first African-American president, who inspired many people who had never voted before to vote, be sworn-in," Allen-LaFleur said.
She and most of the 14 members of her family and their German foreign exchange student, Dennis Habersack, who is a junior at Chino Valley High School this year, watched the ceremonies from the Silver Section, which included the center of the National Mall and around the reflecting pool.
"We were about a half-mile away from the capitol, right in the center with a straight-on view," Allen-LaFleur said. However, there were Jumbotrons set up that people could watch the events on.
She said the crowd exploded with applause when former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Sen. John McCain appeared on the large television screens lining the mall. However, when President George W. Bush came on several people booed until one woman shouted, "We're better than that."
Saturday, her husband and Habersack got a tour of the capitol through McCain's office.
On Sunday, she said one of the highlights was Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger singing "This Land Is Your Land" in the huge kick-off concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
On Monday, Habersack and other younger members of the contingent toured the American Indian Museum and American History Museum, which really impressed them, she said.
Allen-LaFleur said they had rented a house in Alexandria near the end of the Metro's Yellow Line, which they rode it into the capitol. Tuesday, it took them 2-1/2 hours to get to the Silver Section on the mall, where they were from 8:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Then it took them three hours just to get back to Metro.
After Tuesday, she said she will never complain about the cold again. "Once you got on the National Mall people were so squeezed together they kept you warm," she said.
Her sister, Kathleen Allen, who is a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, said while a number of African-Americans were present for President Bill Clinton's first inaugural, a lot more were present Tuesday.
Allen-LaFleur, whose grandparents came from Ireland, said she compared the pride her Irish-Catholic family had when John F. Kennedy became president to what African-Americans must have with the inauguration of Obama.
She said Habersack, who is from Munich, Germany, "was very touched by Obama's speech."
Allen-LaFleur said she came away from the inauguration "with a great sense of hope of our country not being so partisan to help us through this crisis facing our nation and to respect each other's opinion."