Saturday, January 10, 2009
When I heard about Obama's train trip, I remembered the day my father took all of us to watch as Bobby Kennedy made his final journey by train to Washington after his assassination.
We piled into our station wagon. Our mood turned solemn as we joined the silent group standing by the tracks. A few people were wiping their eyes.
My father gazed into the distance, squinting. He had calculated the exact time the train would arrive and, considering his father was a train engineer, I figured he'd be right.
He was. The train appeared on the horizon. It was not traveling fast, nor was it traveling slowly. It seemed surreal, as if the train was floating by. I saw the black bunting and thought I saw a few figures move near the windows. A hand inside waved at the silent crowd.
Moments later as the train chugged into the distance, everyone began to walk back to their cars. "Who was that?" people asked, guessing, naming members of the Kennedy family. "Teddy? Ethel?"
"This is history, kids," my father said, as we trooped back into the car. "This is something you'll always remember."
There are other history lessons I've learned since then, lessons about disability history, for example. I've learned that people with disabilities are still struggling to be included in public events, to be a part of, to have access and achieve the simple act of being able to show up.
I hope many people have the chance to be a part of the upcoming inaugural events. And I pray that future generations of people with disabilities will have a better chance to attend the inauguration. Because what I'll remember from this inauguration is how exclusion because of lack of access and inadequate transportation results in so many people with disabilities not being able to stand by and witness events. And that feels surreal too.
[photo from JFK News and Updates]
[image description: A crowd stands along the train tracks waiting for Robert Kennedy's body as he was transported to Washington DC after his assassination. The crowd includes several nuns, Catholic schoolgirls in uniform, and several families. In the background is a parking lot with cars.]