I have been searching for the words to explain the day and I keep coming up short. Awed, proud, honored, overwhelmed, hypnotized, blown away, monumental, and stately just don't seem to capture the magnitude of the day.
Did I eat breakfast? I don't even remember. I know I was up at the crack of dawn due to anxiety. After donning my red suit, off I went to meet with the other teachers in the lobby, where there was a palpable feeling of excitement and nervousness. Our leader, John Quam, led us down the block and I am sure we looked like a line of well-suited ducklings crossing the road.
We began to go through the many checkpoints into the White House and the tension level went way up. We were allowed to check out several of the rooms in the East Wing and as usual I got a little distracted.
I noticed no one else was around and so I headed up the stairs to where the band was playing. I ran into the NJ TOY from 2010 and she took a picture, but I still didn't see any of my people.
I saw John Quam rounding up we last few stragglers and so I hustled to follow him into the holding room where the rest of my fellow STOYs were already lined up. As I ran into the room, I slid on the wooden floor in my cute shoes and nearly wiped out. You could hear the gasp in the room as I just avoided disaster, so of course I took a bow and explained I was distracted and therefore fashionably late. Then I found my place in line.
The White House staff ran us through the procedure and showed us where we would stand on the risers once and then it was back to the holding room. It was interesting to see how people deal with the stress. Some clam up, some talk too much, and I tend to crack jokes and dance. I was gently moving around to the song in my head "Rumor Has It" by Adele, when I got "Quamed". I had stepped out of line and turned to face them when they all went silent on me. "He's behind me isn't he?" They all nodded. I stopped dancing and got back in line, until John Q turned his head to look the other direction.
Yes John, you were right. I am going to be the one you have to keep an eye on in Space Camp. I do have mischievous tendencies!
Then all of a sudden POTUS walked through the room and it was time to move. Was that really him? It didn't seem real.
We proceeded forward in the line, tallest to smallest, to shake hands, take a picture and then be announced as we walked into the East Room. It all went so fast, before I knew it, it was my turn. I was announced and walked up to Barack and what I can only say was awe-struck. I think I said "Good morning." He asked me what I teach and I said "High School History" He said, "We need more good history teachers" I think I agreed as we turned to take the picture. He was warm, charming, a bit of a joker, and seemed genuinely happy to be there talking to us. Then it was time to go, but wait.....I still had more to say and I had been practicing! I took a step to walk away and then turned and said, "Thank you for all you do. Your 2008 We the People speech at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia was a game changer for me and my students. Thank you." He looked surprised and said "Thanks" by which point, the marine standing there had walked up to me to keep the line moving. Next thing, I heard my name announced again and I stepped out into a room crowded with family, press, bright lights and more cameras pointed at me than I had ever seen.
My goal, don't trip up the risers. I made it up and then had the biggest smile on my face ever. My cheeks actually hurt after a while and I am just hoping it didn't turn into a scary smile.
Finally all 53 of us were out there. What a feeling as we waited for Rebecca, the NTOY, and President Obama.
I don't remember much of the speech because it seemed like I was outside of my body looking in. Was I really that close to the President? Was it real? How did I go from an average kid who struggled in school, wore homemade clothes and hand me downs to this? So many things going through my mind, it was like my life was flashing before me. I was torn between smiling and breaking into uncontrollable sobs. The one thing that brought me back to reality was the fact that at some point my feet went from being in pain to numb, but I was going to smile through the pain. Before we knew it, the speeches were over and it was time for the group shot.
We finished the picture and then the room cleared out rather quickly. I took a few more pics, especially since Marine One had decided to land in the back yard, and then found Mom, who was the proudest woman I have ever seen.
What a remarkable day!
The only way to complete the afternoon was a little fun and then high tea at the Willard.
Hmmmm..... President DelColle has a certain ring to it.