WASHINGTON, D.C. - The presidential inaugural week is something nine Hopi High Close Up students will never forget.
The nine attended the inaugural parade after barely missing out on the inaugural swearing-in ceremony.
The students attempted to attend the inaugural, but like thousands who were in Washington, D.C., they were not allowed in because more than one million had already made their way in and security wouldn't allow any more people in.
The students were up by 3:30 a.m., left the hotel by 4:30 and were in line by 5 a.m. The students waited in line for more than five hours, standing in nine-degree weather, and they were squeezed in like sardines.
Once the students made it past the security gate known as checkpoint Charlie, they learned that the entrance to the inaugural had been shut down. The good news was that they were right where they needed to be to watch the inaugural parade.
After waiting several more hours, the parade started. Before the parade started, the students had a chance to see parade spectators holding political signs, singing and dancing as the crowd was in a festive mood.
After the military bands marched by, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle walked by in the parade, probably no more than 25 yards away from the students. It was an electric moment for the nine Hopi High students and the crowd as just seeing the new president brought a roar from the crowd.
Moments later, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife also walked by in the parade.
Close Up is a national civic organization that brings students to the nation's capital throughout the school year to study the federal government including the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court. Hopi High was fortunate to get chosen during the week of the inaugural.
The Hopi High students also had a chance to tour various museums, meet with U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, spend time with Close Up students from other states, attend a Close Up inaugural ball and the inaugural concert, which was held on the Mall.
Clydeen Honyouti, a junior, said she had a great time meeting people from different states while learning quite a bit about the background of America. She said being a part of history by participating in the inaugural week was cool.
"The best part of the trip was being here in Washington and seeing our new president," she said. "The inauguration was crazy, but it was fun, exciting and great to be there."
Honyouti said she enjoyed learning about the memorials and thought it was better than reading about them in books. She also found it interesting meeting Rep. Kirkpatrick.
Joelle Mansfield, a junior, said the best part of the trip was that the Close Up staff was nice and helpful. She said during Close Up workshops they met people from different states who were funny and cool.
Mansfield said she enjoyed the inauguration.
"It was really cold and it took five hours to get in, but it was all worth it in the end because we saw Obama," she said.
Mansfield was also thrilled because she saw U.S. Sen. John McCain walking by when they were visiting the Senate building. Of course, McCain is a senator and former presidential candidate and from Arizona.
Jeanine Butler, a junior, recounted how she waited in line for five hours in the extreme cold, but emphasized that going to the inaugural parade and the inaugural concert were fun.
"During the concert, we got to see ourselves on TV and I saw a lot of famous people," she said.
Latoya Rucker, a junior, called the week a once in a lifetime experience as they got to see the first African-American president.
"It was great to see this happen," she said.
Rucker said from this trip she learned what happens when a new president takes office. The Close Up students also had a mock election and Rucker said this taught her how to run her own campaign.
Brannon Sidney, a junior, said Washington, D.C. was one of the greatest cities he has been to and he learned how to express himself. He said the monuments and the atmosphere was spectacular.
"Hey, I even learned how to be patient and wait in long lines in the cold," he said. "I know that witnessing and being a part of history is something I will carry with me in my life and share with other people."
Sidney said the experience also taught him to be a role model, good citizen, independent, a communicator and to build friendships with others.
Truman Navakuku, a sophomore, said one of the most memorable moments was seeing President Obama walk right in front of him during the parade.
"Another moment I'll remember is waiting by a gate for six hours in very cold weather," he said. "But the wait was worth being part of history. Even though we didn't see the actual swearing in, we were still there to be part of it."
Clayden Torivio, a junior, said he enjoyed the inaugural concert, but that he and Sidney got lost.
"It was a fun and scary experience because we got kinda close to the stage," he said.
Torivio said the long, cold wait for the inaugural was worth it because they were able to see President Obama in the parade.
"He had just got out of his limo and was walking down the street when he passed us. It was way cool," he said. "Another thing was watching former President Bush leave."
Bush flew away in a helicopter following a luncheon with President Obama just before the parade.
Torivio liked the Close Up inaugural ball.
"We got to dance the night away and have fun," he said.
Desmond Lomayaktewa, a junior, said he learned a lot about politics and was able to get a good photograph of President Obama. He was also glad to see places that he usually only sees on television.
"Now, I get to go back to school and tell everybody that we saw the president," he said.