2009.01.25: January 25, 2009: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Obama: : RPCV Peggy Murrah carries Sierra Leone flag during OBama Inaugural parade

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: President Obama: 2009.01.20: January 20, 2009: Headlines: NPCA' The Third Goal: Obama: CSPAN: The Peace Corps Community marches in Obama's Inaugural Parade : 2009.01.24: January 24, 2009: Headlines: COS - Estonia: Headlines: NPCA: The Third Goal: Obama: Uncornered Market: Estonia RPCV Audrey Scott writes: Marching in Obama's Inaugural Parade : 2009.01.25: January 25, 2009: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Obama: : RPCV Peggy Murrah carries Sierra Leone flag during OBama Inaugural parade

By Admin1 (admin) (151.196.12.55) on Monday, February 16, 2009 - 2:21 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Peggy Murrah carries Sierra Leone flag during OBama Inaugural parade

RPCV Peggy Murrah carries Sierra Leone flag during OBama Inaugural parade

A final observation Ė the crowds defied imagination. When our bus pulled up next to the mall and we saw the people who were one massive group of humanity, our mouths fell open. I didnít know you could put that many people in one place. Yet, as the day went on, I did not hear a single word of anger or an unkind remark from anyone. As our group walked between the fences that separated us from the onlookers, we were met with cheers and applause. People were yelling ďPeace Corps! Peace Corps!Ē For me, this was an especially magic moment. Where I come from, people donít have a clue about the Peace Corps and it was nice to know that there are people that do. When I returned home I had a huge surprise at my school. I have taught at the same tiny rural Georgia school system since before I was in the Peace Corps. I am finishing year 33, minus my two years in the Peace Corps, this year. From the moment I walked on campus, people started calling to me. I had a parent get out of her car and welcome me home.

RPCV Peggy Murrah carries Sierra Leone flag during OBama Inaugural parade

RPCV Peggy Murrah carries Sierra Leone flag during OBama Inaugural

Written by Cocorioko Newspaper Limited

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Dear Members and Friends, last Tuesday I was honored to represent both the Peace Corps Community and Friends of Sierra Leone in the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington DC. It is very difficult to adequately describe the range of emotions and experiences of the day, but Iíll try. I started the day by meeting the other marchers at the Pentagon City metro station and we were given security passes and transported by bus to the security clearance tent. I started the day by meeting the other marchers at the Pentagon City metro station and we were given security passes and transported by bus to the security clearance tent. (PHOTO: Peggy Murrah and David O'neill ) .

I started the day by meeting the other marchers at the Pentagon City metro station and we were given security passes and transported by bus to the security clearance tent. We passed through an airport type security with bags being x-rayed and sniffed by dogs. We were given a box breakfast and lunch and then sent on to our divisionís holding tent.

We spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon there and we were able to watch the inauguration events on two TV screens at either end of the tent. We also received our flags and I was lucky enough to be chosen to carry the Sierra Leone flag. Three other RPCVs from Sierra Leone were in the group of marchers. Dave OíNeill and I found each other, but I never did meet the other two who were there. I have attached a picture of Dave and me taken at the holding area.

Dave marched at the front of the parade and there are several pictures of him in the various photo collections making the rounds via email. When it was time to line up for the parade, the flags were arranged alphabetically. Given the S for Sierra, that landed me almost in the very last row.

We marched in lines of 9 although the lines tended to blend together at times. All groups had a military escort and I asked ours what his buddies said when he was assigned to the Peace Corps group. Actually, I asked him if they gave him a hard time. He hesitated and then said they had given him a little bit of a hard time. His buddies told him we wouldnít stand in line. I think they were right. Our lines did tend to merge and then separate and sometimes I found myself in the wrong letter! As we left the holding area, we were full of pep and excitement and ready for the walk! We walked about a block and stopped. Then we walked a few more feet and stopped. This went on for a while until somewhere on Constitution Avenue, we came to a complete standstill. And there we stood for what seemed to be hours. One of the Tís had a transistor radio plugged in his ear and he gave us the news of Sen. Kennedyís seizure as well as Sen. Byrdís collapse. What we didnít realize at first was exactly what that meant to all of us.

As we stood, and stood, and stood, the cold begin to work its way through the layers of carefully chosen material that coated all of us. Within no time at all, it even conquered the glorious heat given off by those small bags of chemicals that fit into gloves, shoes and that specially placed zipper pouch on the back of one of the layers of clothes that I had on. (As a true Southerner, I knew I was going to die right there on Constitution Ave. on January 20th. I am really not made to withstand temperatures that dip below 70 for more than a short time. Truly, during the rainy season in Sierra Leone, I understood totally why those old men wore those big heavy coats that found their way to them via the CRS or CARE or some other well meaning organization.) What kept me going was the spirit of not only the group of RPCVs I was with, but that of the high school band from Nebraska behind us.

I was able to tap into the incredible energy that was all around and in us. Because everyone else could do it, so could I. Unbelievably, good moods dominated the entire parade. No whining, no complaining and no negativity. The Peace Corps group included representatives from every decade since the beginning of the organization. I donít know the age of the oldest marcher, but I do know we had some older members, and there are those who say I am no spring chicken either. Regardless of age, the group hung in there and made me proud to be part of them. I heard we lost one from our group who was having some back pain before she arrived. I know that it may be difficult to understand, but it was impossible to see everyone in our group or to know what was happening at the front.

We more or less stayed where we had been placed and tended to get displaced no further than the line in front or the line behind. The lines completely disappeared at one point during our Constitution Ave. delay. The cold had reached such an intensity that some intelligent soul (surely an education volunteerJ) came up with the elementary school huddle from the days when children had to go outside for recess regardless of the temperature. The huddle included our flags and we were a colorful picture. I wish someone had taken a picture of the huddle after the band from Nebraska decided to join us. So there we were Ė a group of people holding a lot of colorful flags surrounded by a high school band dressed in blue and white and packed as tightly as we could pack. It actually worked and that was the warmest I was all afternoon. But, the band director finally made the band line back up and so did we and warmth was just a nice memory. Eventually we did get started in the ďrealĒ thing. We finally found ourselves on Pennsylvania Ave. and marching in front of the reviewing stand. That was such a thrilling moment! For one brief second or two, each of us was directly in front of Pres. Obama and the rest of the presidential party! I am not known for being a fashion hound and could rarely tell you what anyone had on five seconds after he or she is out of my sight, but I will always remember Mrs. Obamaís yellow dress.

Pres. Obama was looking at us and leaned over and said something to her and they both smiled. While I obviously have no idea what they were talking about, I surely like to think it was about the Peace Corps and what a tremendous asset to the country we are. I held the Sierra Leone flag as high as I could and was thankful for being taller than most of the other women in the group. I wanted that flag to stand out and be seen and I like to think that it was. We may have been at the back of the group, but I tried to put us at the top of the flags. If you watched the parade on TV, I know you had a hard time spotting me. C-Span has a good video available on their site - http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/index.php?main_page=product_video_info&products_id=283482-1&showVid=true. Scroll to 5:30 to see us. Look toward the very back of the group and about 3 people from the presidential side of the parade. I have on a FoSL sweatshirt (thank you Patty and I stayed quite warm for the part of me covered by the sweatshirt) and no hat. I did have on ear warmers and you can also see my dark neck warmer. I have no idea when Harris Wofford joined us. He was in the leading line and I couldnít see them. I also donít know when the 3 kids in the marching band in front of us were taken away suffering from hypothermia.

Again, I couldnít see anything more than about 2 lines in front of my line. I didnít see the Shrivers when they came back from the Special Olympic group that was in front of the band in front of us. I know these things happened, but I didnít see them.A final observation Ė the crowds defied imagination. When our bus pulled up next to the mall and we saw the people who were one massive group of humanity, our mouths fell open. I didnít know you could put that many people in one place. Yet, as the day went on, I did not hear a single word of anger or an unkind remark from anyone. As our group walked between the fences that separated us from the onlookers, we were met with cheers and applause. People were yelling ďPeace Corps! Peace Corps!Ē For me, this was an especially magic moment. Where I come from, people donít have a clue about the Peace Corps and it was nice to know that there are people that do. When I returned home I had a huge surprise at my school. I have taught at the same tiny rural Georgia school system since before I was in the Peace Corps. I am finishing year 33, minus my two years in the Peace Corps, this year. From the moment I walked on campus, people started calling to me. I had a parent get out of her car and welcome me home.

Students that I have never taught called to me in the hall. I had students and adults come up and grab me and hug me. Keep in mind that I live in a place that was overwhelmingly for McCain. I was not expecting the pride with which my community regarded my participation in the parade. I have used the opportunity as I talk to the students to educate them about the Peace Corps and the Friends of Sierra Leone.

Certainly, I have used every opportunity available in the 30+ years I have worked there to do this, but this time I really felt the students listened more. I am optimistic that at least some of them finally understood that you can serve your country as a volunteer just as much as joining the military.

Finally, Iíd like to thank all of you for allowing me to represent FoSL in this historical event. I was proud of our part in it. Let us hope that the new administration removes remaining obstacles to the return to Sierra Leone by the Peace Corps. Thank you and have a great weekend, Peggy




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: January, 2009; Peace Corps Sierra Leone; Directory of Sierra Leone RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Sierra Leone RPCVs; Presidents - Obama





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Story Source: Cocorioko Newspaper Limited

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