Columbia group boards bus to D.C.

Sunday, January 18, 2009 | 7:38 p.m. CST; updated 10:07 p.m. CST, Sunday, January 18, 2009
Sarah Ludeman, left, applauds as Lyn Williams announces the bus is set for departure to Washington D.C. on Sunday. A group of nearly 60 people from Columbia, including several high school students, headed to the nation's capital for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

COLUMBIA — More than 50 Columbians boarded a bus Sunday night to cross the country in time to watch Tuesday's inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president.

Most of the 57 travelers have no official tickets to the ceremony but decided to make the trip to Washington, D.C., anyway.

Inauguration schedule of events



Disney Channel — "Kids' Inaugural: We Are the Future" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. CST


NBC (KOMU) — Live coverage throughout the day; "The Inauguration of Barack Obama" at 9 p.m. CST

ABC (KMIZ) — Live coverage throughout the day; "Neighborhood Ball: An Inauguration Celebration" from 7 to 9 p.m. CST

CBS (KRCG) — "The Inauguration of the 44th President" from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST; "Change and Challenge: The Inauguration of Barack Obama" from 8 to 9 p.m. CST

MTV — "Be the Change: Live from the Inaugural" from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. CST

BET — Live coverage from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST; a recap of Obama's journey throughout the evening; "Yes We Will! Inaugural Celebration" at 7 and 9 p.m. CST


8:45 a.m. EST: Service at St. John's Episcopal Church

10 a.m. EST: Coffee with President and Mrs. Bush at the White House

11:30 a.m. EST: Inaugural ceremony

Noon EST: Inaugural address

1 p.m. EST: Inaugural luncheon

2:30 p.m. EST: Inaugural parade; the president will walk part of the parade, then view it from a stand at the White House

8 p.m. EST: Barack and Michelle Obama will attend the first of 10 inaugural balls.


Music: U.S. Marine Band, San Francisco Boys Chorus, San Francisco Girls Chorus

Call to order: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Invocation: the Rev. Rick Warren

Music: Aretha Franklin

Oath of office: Vice President-elect Joe Biden

Music: Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, Anthony McGill

Oath of office: President-elect Barack Obama

Inaugural address

Poem: Elizabeth Alexander

Benediction: the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery

National Anthem

Sources: The Associated Press; Inaugural Media Guide

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Passengers include middle schoolers, high school students, college students from each of the area’s major institutions, former campaign volunteers, average workers and a few who are unemployed. They are young and old, men and women, and they represent a broad spectrum of ethnic backgrounds. 

All of them have this in common: a desire and determination to be present for the swearing-in of the next president of the United States.

The group will travel through the night Sunday, hitting Frankfort, Ky., for breakfast. After a short overnight stop in Richmond, Va., they will leave again at 2 a.m. Tuesday to arrive before 10:30 a.m. for the inauguration ceremonies at the National Mall.

The bus is timed to leave Washington exactly 48 hours after it left Columbia on Sunday. The tight schedule is as much about efficiency as it is about keeping the trip affordable. The trip is costing each participant about $200.

Lyn Williams began organizing the trip on Nov. 5, the day after the election. 

“We knew we were going to be involved somehow, but we didn’t know how,” she said. “We felt it was important for us to be there.” 

Williams is a member of Change Today, a local group of former volunteers with the Obama for America campaign that formed after the Columbia office closed.

Several high school and college students who worked for the campaign approached Williams about setting up a trip to the inauguration. She said she agreed to lend her expertise in “negotiating contracts and all of that organizational stuff."

Initial plans called for a group of 200 to be distributed among four buses.

“We thought we could get that many people who wanted to participate in this historic day,” Williams said. “The economy caused that not to happen — we had the buses but not the people."

Brenna Blazis, 17, is one of 12 Rock Bridge Young Democrats making the trek. They joined a student from Hickman High School and a chaperone. 

Brenna volunteered more than 575 hours for Obama’s local campaign, spending every day after school at the campaign headquarters making phone calls or registering voters. 

To recognize her dedication, she received a ticket to the inauguration — one of only three ticketed Columbians making the bus trip.

“I’m really excited to go and have this experience," she said. “We’re planning to keep the trip as cheap as possible. We’re going to be sharing food and going to McDonald’s a lot.” 

The high school group plan to take over the back of the bus to contain their excitement. 

“We’re probably not going to be sleeping that much," she said. 

Although everyone in the high school group volunteered for at least one of the local Democratic campaigns, only two were old enough to vote on Election Day.

“We hope to re-elect (Obama), so we can at least have the chance to vote for him in the next election," Brenna said.

Anyone can attend the event in the National Mall area, but there are restricted ticketed areas in front of the steps to the Capitol where the swearing-in ceremony takes place.

Because the bus will still be en route to Washington Monday, Obama’s National Day of Service, group members collected canned food, household goods and warm clothing prior to leaving Columbia. 

They are taking these items along with them to donate to the Salvation Army in Beckley, W.Va., during a brief midday stop. 

“Because we’re going to be on the bus, we can’t really volunteer," Brenna said.

Williams added: “We still wanted to make a difference somewhere, so why not in that part of country?”

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