The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 6, 2009

More memories of Inauguration Day

Kyra Prats of River Road

December 20th: “Kyra, a staffer from Representative Tsongas’ office called: you won a ticket to the Inauguration.”
“You’re kidding.”
“Wait, for real?!?”

Every day this past fall I wished my eighteenth birthday was before November 4th. Yes, I made a few phone calls to New Hampshire voters on behalf of the Obama campaign, but I still wasn’t old enough to vote, to have a say in the direction our country should take. When Obama was elected, I still wanted to be a part of it all. I entered Nikki Tsongas’ ticket lottery where each Representative would have about 200 tickets to give out. But what were the chances that I would win one? Turns out those chances were better than I thought. I was absolutely thrilled; my parents were less so. With millions of people expected to be present, getting down to and navigating around DC by myself was not going to be an easy task. However, I managed to convince my parents that I was capable of being responsible and able to fend for myself. The plans started to come together slowly but surely. Eventually I had transportation, a friend at Georgetown to stay with, and my excitement began to build.

January 16th, the night before my journey was to start: “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes, Mom. Absolutely”

January 20th: Standing in the crowd on that freezing but sunny morning was one of the best experiences of my life. On one hand it was a personal achievement. I took charge and followed through with something that I was passionate about doing, even when my parents were skeptical. On the other hand, it was a national achievement. I was able to participate in a highly significant event in our nation’s history. Trudging through Georgetown at 5 a.m., then through the streets of DC, over to the Capitol, with my frigid hands…all of that was so insignificant by the time Barack Obama’s words spread in waves from speaker to speaker down the entire Mall. The emotion was contagious; it was the first time in my life that I felt totally united with the people around me, and truly patriotic.

Sheila Heen and Petey of Westford Street

We’re the folks with the “His” (McCain) and “Hers” (Obama) signs on Westford Street out front this fall, so it won’t surprise you to hear that half our household attended the inauguration. Responding to a last minute invitation from old college friends, my sister, my first grader, Petey, and I threw together a backpack of all the thermal underwear we could find, and jumped in the car. We left at 8 p.m. Saturday to get out before the snowstorm, stocked up on Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee, and drove off into the night.

Yes, it was cold. But in the crowd of 2 million it was actually warm. Protected from the wind, buoyed by the joyous spirits all around you, it was easy to be easy-going about the inevitable confusion, slow-moving crowds, and hours outdoors. We stayed out of the Metro and instead hopped on a bus at 6 a.m., where people were introducing themselves, asking each other questions, and talking about the history of the moment. As the 60-something Latina woman next to me said, “I have to work today, but my heart will be singing.”

We found a spot far back in the mall, but with a great view of a Jumbotron. Most impressively, you could hear every word, without distortion, as oaths were said (and flubbed), and Obama spoke about the challenges we face. Standing there shoulder-to-shoulder, holding my son next to others with tears coming down their cheeks, it was easy to believe we’ll buckle down and make it through together.

It was not a crowd filled solely with Obama devotees. I met Hilary supporters, McCain voters, late undecideds, even foreigners coming together to celebrate the historic moment. A friend from Brussels said to me, “Watching from Europe, we are so surprised that a black man can get elected in America.” Yes, I think in some ways we surprised ourselves.

My six-year old son Petey’s favorite parts of the trip? On Monday we watched MSNBC and CNN set up, got an up-close view of the Capitol steps, and danced on the wide open mall to the Sunday concert being replayed on the Jumbotrons. We gave a respectful salute to Bush as he flew overhead after the swearing-in. We watched the moving vans pull up to the White House and begin to unload.

But perhaps Petey’s very favorite part was meeting a real life Secret Service Agent. My friend is a DC lawyer whose office fronts the parade route. We stopped in around 7:30 a.m. to warm up on our way to the Mall, and there was a woman sitting in the hall reading a newspaper. After passing her several times as we used the bathroom and stocked up on hand warmers, she finally introduced herself. She gave Petey a lapel pin and I finally clued in. The Secret Service had agents on every floor of every building along the parade route.

Of course. And thank goodness. As my Republican mother reminded me, “Be sure to pray for our new President.” And I’m adding a prayer for those who protect him.

Doug Stevenson receives Community Service Award at Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner

Doug Stevenson (second from right) is presented the Community Service Award at the Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards dinner on Friday, January 30. Shown (left to right) are Larry Bearfield, Sarah Fletcher, executive director of Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce, Stevenson and Robin Emerson. (Photo by Karen Burke)

When you live in a small town like Carlisle, it’s easy to separate those who commute back and forth and consider the town just a stopping off point from those who consider it their home.

And when you happen to be the proprietors of the only store in town – literally the only store in town – you notice those who volunteer and give of themselves – they stand out as they make our community a far better place.

It’s fair to say that Doug Stevenson has given thousands and thousands of hours to the Town of Carlisle. His continuous involvement demonstrates loyalty, dedication and a firm commitment to our community earning him the respect and grateful appreciation of all. That he does it quietly, and without fanfare speaks volumes about his character, values and personal motivation.

For example, for over 20 years at Memorial Day, Doug has been placing over 250 American flags on veterans graves at our town cemetery. He took on the task years ago when an elderly resident passed it on to him. His wife Mary Beth tells the story that on their second date in 1993, they went to the cemetery to place the flags. Doug isn’t known for his romantic side. Now years later, with their triplets – Catherine, Caroline and Douglas, Jr. – helping out, Doug still carries on the personal commitment he made so many years ago.

Doug’s community involvement over the years has penetrated every level of Carlisle: He’s a 27-year member of the Carlisle on-call Fire Department and an 11-year member of the Board of Selectmen (currently serving as chairman), a position he has been elected to four terms. He’s chairman of the Veterans’ Honor Roll Committee, a member of the Celebrations Committee, Old Home Day Committee, Firefighters’ Relief Association, Christmas on the Common Committee, Recreation Committee and a member of the Masonic Corinthian Lodge.

In addition, he has served on numerous Board of Selectmen sub-committees, Town Council Search Committee, FinCom Team, Land Preservation Committees, School Committee liaison and many, many more.

Doug, a former Boy Scout, served as a scout leader for ten years and has jumped back in now that his son is a Cub Scout.

Doug is a Vice President at Kistler & Knapp Builders, Acton.

[Ed. note: Larry Bearfield and Robin Emerson of Ferns Country Store were the recipient of the Business of the Year Award in 2008, presented by Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce, which represents the towns of Acton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Littleton, Maynard, Stow and Westford.]

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito