The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States has been a controversial subject for many, but for one local student, it was simply the experience of a lifetime.
Among individuals from the region who attended the event were Jacob Gebhart, Southern State Community College student and Leesburg resident, and his mother, Shelly. They were among the hundreds of thousands from around the country who came to the inauguration.
“The decision to go was rather last minute,” Gebhart said. “My mom received an email from Donald Trump’s organization with a commemorative ticket to the inauguration.”
Gebhart added that the tickets were for free general admission seating. “Though (they) would not ultimately allow us access to anywhere special … it sparked my mother’s interest and led us to go,” he said.
Gebhart also said that he and his mother saw the Capitol building as well as the platform where the inauguration took place.
“We weren’t able to see the man himself as we were so far back in the crowd, but the city installed large television screens and speakers so we could see the entire event clearly,” he said.
And the experience, Gebhart said, was an exciting one.
“The atmosphere was electric,” he said. “I think people knew that this was going to be a very special time to be in Washington.”
Gebhart said that as a college student from a rural area, he thought President Trump’s inaugural address was “impressive.”
“(Trump) spoke with the grand professionalism that he is known for and that allowed him to really connect with his audience,” he said.
The crowd, he added, was “enormous.”
“Even towards the rear of the crowd, there was scarcely a place to stand,” Gebhart said. “It was evident just how many people were in attendance when you tried to board the metro. Trains would arrive that were packed to the brim without a single space left.”
And with the crowds also came protestors.
“The protests were everywhere,” Gebhart said. “There were general anti-Trump protestors, Black Lives Matter, Westboro Baptists, and socialist union organizers, the latter of which got overly rowdy with the crowd and had to be quelled by DC riot police and Army MPs.”
Gebhart described the protests, saying that those involved were “generally chanting and even giving flash dances.”
Beghart said, “Many of the organizations there were shouting profanities at the crowd, namely about racism and the evils of capitalism.”
He said that, while he had been concerned about his safety before leaving (Leesburg) and before arriving at the event, he “never felt threatened at any point while there.”
“Security of every sort was on hand, so very little could happen without being stopped very quickly,” Gebhart said.
Overall, Gebhart said the protestors were “mainly a nuisance.”
“They would gather in groups and sit in front of security checkpoints and not allow us through,” he said. “This would cause us to be rerouted to another checkpoint several blocks away.”
Gebhart described the security at the event, saying, “You couldn’t look in any direction without seeing security. There were DC police, Secret Service, FBI, TSA, NSA, Army MPs and National Guard, the Marines, Airmen, and even Wisconsin State Troopers.”
He added, “We had to go through three security screening simply to get to the National Mall. To describe (security) as tight would be an understatement.”
But the crowds, security, and protestors were not what the day meant to Gebhart. He said he was grateful to have been able to be in the nation’s capital to see the 45th president’s inauguration.
“Being in a crowd of hundreds of thousands of patriots shouting ‘USA, USA’ time and time again was truly incredible,” he said.
Sarah Allen is a contributing writer to The Times-Gazette. She can be reached by email at [email protected]