The tears I cried during the inauguration washed away my pain of sitting back in the bus

Bea L. Hines
·5 min read

I am writing this column on Inaugural Day. I don’t think I have any tears left.

I started crying early in the morning. So much so that I had to reassure my great-grandson Jaylen and my godson Greg that I was OK, that I was crying happy tears.

I had to reassure them because I am not one of these people who can cry and smile at the same time. No one could ever accuse me of “smiling through my tears.”

So, now, after all the pomp and circumstance, I am sitting here trying to write my feelings about this day. It is hard. Although I have lived through other significant inaugurations — the Obama inauguration, for one — this one has affected me in a different way.

I thought that witnessing the seating of a Black president was the height of my faith in America. Now, I have been blessed to witness the seating of a woman of color, Kamala Harris, as the vice president of the United States of America. And I am soaring.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president of the United States by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

As I watched the ceremony with my 13-year-old great-grandson, I tried to explain my feelings to him. He looked uncomfortable as I told him, with a broken, tear-filled voice, what it meant to me to be able to witness this historic day.

I told him that when I was his age, I had to ride at the back of the bus and drink from a public water fountain that had a sign over it that said, “Colored Only.” He looked at me in disbelief.

“Not only have I lived to see a Black man become president, I am watching this day as the first woman — a woman of color — becomes the vice president of the United States of America. That’s why I am crying, baby,” I said to him.

Looking back over the past two months, America has been tried and tempted. Yet the hate that has tried to divide us has been knocked to the sidelines by a surge of new hope in our new president and in the people he was called to serve.

I love it that President Biden is not ashamed to let us know he is a praying man who wants to bring the country together, to end the divide that threatens to tear us asunder.

And, yet, I know that the success of America does not rest on his shoulders alone. Each of us must do our part to help make him a successful president.

We have got to believe in the good of our country.

It is not about politics, or who is a Republican or a Democrat. It is about being a dedicated American, one who in his/her own way, is willing to throw out their prejudices and work together toward making this country all that it can be for every citizen.

Today, Inauguration Day 2021, can be a start in that direction.

As I listened to President Biden’s inaugural speech, I felt the love that he has for America. Like a father, speaking to his children, he gave us hope:

“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day,” he said as he began his speech. “A day of history and hope. Of renewal and resolve.”

“Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.

“... We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

I clung to every word. Only two weeks before, America’s democracy took a fierce beating as a riotous mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving five people dead in the aftermath. As we watched the scenes unfold on television, it did not look like we would get to this day.

But, Wednesday, Jan. 20, came. It was a time for healing. I felt the healing as its warmth engulfed me, giving me renewed hope.

I felt that our country was in good hands. And although the road ahead will be filled with potholes and obstacles, on this day, America was given another chance at making things right for all Americans.

The participants of the inaugural program reflected that. They depicted the unity and harmony we so need in America — from Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman escorting Vice President Harris (he is the police officer who prevented rioters from entering the Senate chamber) and the Rev. Leo J. O’Donovan, who delivered the invocation, to Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, who performed beautifully.

Garth Brooks sang a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” and invited America to join him in singing the last verse of the ageless hymn.

And then came the young poetess Amanda Gorman. At 22, she was the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. She made me feel like I was her proud grandma as she read her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

The Rev. Silvester Beaman, a Wilmington pastor who is close to Biden, gave us a taste of that “old-time religion” when he “got happy” while praying and spiked his prayer with a boisterous “Hallelujah!”

As the day wore on, I realized that while I cried tears of gratitude and joy, my tears were also tears of relief. It felt good to shed happy tears for a change.

What a beautiful day Jan. 20 was to me and to the life of our country. It was a day worthy of happy tears as I watched history being made.

In her prayer sometime, my mom would say, “Lord, if you never do another thing for me, I thank you for what you have already done.”

This is my version of Mom’s prayer: “Lord if you never let me see another Inauguration Day, I thank you for sparing me to see Jan. 20, 2021. Amen.”