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Crossroads residents recount attending presidential inauguration

Jan. 21, 2013 at 10 p.m.
Updated Jan. 21, 2013 at 7:22 p.m.

Jonathan Cohen, author of New York Times Best Seller "The Harbinger," speaks at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast with Mark Collins, dressed as George Washington.

Jonathan Cohen, author of New York Times Best Seller "The Harbinger," speaks at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast with Mark Collins, dressed as George Washington.

America's first president had to push his way through a massive crowd of onlookers to watch history in the making in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning.

That was the unusual scene for Mark Collins, a Yorktown man who for more than 10 years has portrayed George Washington for educational and faith-based events throughout the Crossroads.

Collins spoke at the presidential inauguration prayer breakfast shortly before President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term.

The First Baptist Church pastor, who some people describe as a spitting image of the father of our country, chuckled Monday night, remembering how his milelong trek from the hotel after the breakfast to the Capitol for the ceremony quickly turned cumbersome.

He had a seat reserved for him in the Senate box on the stage at the inauguration, but never made it to the box.

"I was wearing my uniform because I didn't have time to change. ... I couldn't go 5 feet without someone saying, 'Mr. Washington, can I get a picture with you and my son?'"

But he didn't mind. Collins, who had a cameo with Nicolas Cage in the movie "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," said that just comes with playing the role.

"No matter what your politics are, it's very amazing to see how blessed we are to have a system that can change power without civil war," he said, noting some 28 countries were represented in the sea of people, their eyes fixed on the stage. "The world watches us and desires what we have."

Marilyn Vandeveer, 61, of Cuero, agreed the crowd was friendly and patriotic. She said Monday was the perfect way to cap off months of campaigning for Obama over the telephone, and she won the tickets in a lottery with Congressman Ruben Hinojosa's office.

She said a hush fell on the crowd as Obama spoke about how citizens must compromise on issues such as immigration, climate change and gun control over the next four years.

"I was reminded of how we as a nation have overcome great obstacles by coming together and left feeling that our best days are yet to come," Vandeveer said.

Alexa Garza, a 17-year-old St. Joseph High School student, and Ayngelyn Hobbs, an 11-year-old Crain Elementary School student, stood on their tiptoes to watch the ceremony with participants from the respective outreach programs they applied to travel with.

They both enjoyed seeing American Idol Kelly Clarkson, pop artist Beyonce and, of course, the president, in the flesh for the first time.

Ayngelyn said she admired the president for all he's done including relieving her cousin, a college student, of debt.

Alexa said she's heard countless times how his health care bill was beneficial.

Alexa, who also attended an inaugural ball in one of the Smithsonian museums, said her only disappointment of the day was that it didn't snow.

"I was hoping for a repeat of 2004 (in Victoria)," she said. "But I agreed with most of what Obama said. We do need to help each other out."

Kelli Gill, the chairwoman of the Victoria County Democratic Party, was in Washington, D.C., as a reward for her service as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

She said Republicans may try to change their image a little after Obama's tight race with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"I want to be optimistic and say things will be much more cooperative now," Gill said. "Over all, the inauguration was amazing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."



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