For President Obama’s first inauguration, Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois organized a group of more than 700 people — on 10 buses — to make the journey from Chicago to Washington, D.C.
Last time, one of those buses broke down. This time, however, the group decided to take an 18-hour Amtrak ride to see the second presidential inauguration of their hometown hero.
Davis staffer Tumia Romero, who organized the trip, says she did not want to deal with the nightmare of a bus having issues again.
“Someone emailed me and said, ‘let’s take a plane this time,'” Romero says. “So I thought the train was a compromise.”
There only about half as many travelers to organize this time around, so Rep. Davis’ office chartered cars on the Amtrak train. The group was mostly black, mostly over the age 60 and from Chicago’s west and south sides.
Conversations varied as the group mingled in the coach cabins, observation lounge and in the cafe car, but eventually talk turned to the inauguration and the future.
Jeanette Parks volunteered during the president’s first campaign, and this time she says she knocked on more than a thousand doors for President Obama. This inauguration, Parks says, is more special than the last.
“Because he doesn’t have to run anymore, he can stand up and say, ‘I am the man this time,'” Parks says.
While there was a lot of revelry, there was a lot of talk about what the second inaugural means for the people on the train.
“Part of it is pride, just plain old, natural pride,” says Rep. Davis.
Davis says this inauguration is especially meaningful for Chicagoans who’ve supported the president for years.
“There’s a recognition that your town has made a serious contribution to what the country has become and is becoming,” he says.
Davis says he’s seen many politicians rise and fall, but that for many this president and this inaugural is more personal.
“It’s the feeling that a father gets when his son is a leading actor in the school play,” he says. “‘Hey, that’s my boy … Barack’s from the South Side of Chicago. That’s our guy.'”
This train was full of supporters like Janice Trice, who says she has a lot of expectations for the next term, as well as a special kind of support for President Obama.
“We pray for you every day that God would put his loving arms around him, and protect him,” Trice says.
Trice says the president needs it, and so does the country.