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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inauguration Trip
Family and Friends,

My father, Dr. Granville Coggs, and I recently returned from the trip of a lifetime; the opportunity to attend the Presidential Inauguration with the Tuskegee Airmen, who were invited to the ceremonies by Barack Obama.

I was not able to contact everyone before I left, so I'll recap:

When the invitation to the Tuskegee Airmen was announced, I congratulated my dad, and he told me that each Airman could bring another person; a spouse or guest. He said that he and my mom, Maud Coggs would go and I was excited for them. So, how did I end up going?...My mom became bothered by sinus and congestion problems, and decided that she didn't want to fly to Washington, D.C., and then have to sit or stand in cold weather for the event. My dad asked me if I wanted to go, and I accepted. Now we each had a ticket to the Inauguration! Incredible – we were so fortunate and blessed.

Where to stay? Rooms in hotels were going for thousands of dollars, and lots of flights to D.C. were already booked. My dad, however, was able to get tickets on Southwest Airlines, and we arranged to stay with my father’s grandniece(much easier to describe than to say ‘my first cousin once-removed’), Marcy Clark and her family; husband Greg, and their children Hannah, Alston, John, and Caleb…At first the Airmen were told they would be seated near the front during the ceremonies, and then it was announced that they would be sitting on the stage, with their guests nearby. Cool. Also, we found out the ABC show ‘Good Morning America’ wanted to do a piece on the Tuskegee Airmen and the Inauguration, and that co-anchor Robin Roberts , whose father was a Tuskegee Airman, would conduct the interview. Then it was very exciting to find out that my dad was selected to be one of the three Tuskegee Airmen to participate in the interview!

I've been working on writing a story about our trip using notes from a journal I kept. Here are some of the highlights:

Sat.1/17: When the captain of our plane found out that my dad was a Tuskegee Airman, he invited us up front, and asked my dad if he wanted to check out the cockpit. Then he asked me as well; that’s how we both ended up sitting in there together. Amazing!

Sunday 1/18: The interview with Robin Roberts at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum was awesome, and it was great to have the chance to meet her. (Joe is putting together a podcast using a tape from the show.)

Monday 1/19: That morning my dad was asked to do a live T.V. interview with a reporter from the CBS affiliateWFSA-TV12 in Montgomery, Alabama. At one point, we were both on camera, after the reporter Kim Hendrix, asked my father what his daughters thought about his being at the Inauguration, and he pointed to me and said, “Well, here’s my oldest. You can ask her!” (gulp)…It went fine.! That afternoon, he was asked to do a live interview with a talk show host from Sydney, Australia!

After we got to D.C., I learned two things about the seating for Tuesday. Initially, the plan for the Tuskegee Airmen was to actually have them seated on the stage with members of Congress! This was changed, however, when it was decided that the Tuskegee Airmen and their guests would be seated together – all of us near the front.

Tuesday 1/20: It was an honor, a privilege, and so emotional to witness the historic Inauguration of Barack Obama with my dad, surrounded by approximately two hundred and twenty Tuskegee Airmen. Also, it turned out that Lee Archer, the Tuskegee Airmen’s ace fighter pilot, ended up sitting right next to my dad. Unbelievable… I brought my hankie.

The Airmen received the V.I.P. treatment. We were served breakfast at Bolling Air Force Base; bused to the Capitol and back; given fleece blankets and hand warmers, and provided with box lunches. Yum. The crowd was wonderful, the sun was out, and even the freezing temperatures couldn't dampen the jubilant and electric spirit of the two million people gathered there .After the program, we returned to the buses, which faced Constitution Avenue, and watched the parade from there. Our experience that day will always be described by my father as “Unimaginable!”

That evening my father was the special guest at an O44(Obama – 44th President) Gala that our cousin Pam Coggs Alexander organized, and where our cousin, Wisconsin State Senator, Spencer Coggs, was the toastmaster.

Before we left the D.C. area, my father was a guest and spoke to students at Bladensburg High School where cousin Alma Coggs Smith teaches, and Walker Miller Middle School, where Pam Coggs Alexander is a teacher.

What a trip!

Anita Rowell

9:07 am pst


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Click here to download the story of "The Trip of a Lifetime: Traveling With My Father to the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama"

Anita Coggs Rowell family and friends