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My View: Seen from up close, history is indelible

By Christopher Martoche

When I was 13 years old my family had recently moved to Washington, D.C. My father, who worked in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, would be starting a new position in the George H.W. Bush administration.

My father was able to get us tickets to the presidential inauguration at the Capitol. We were just a few of the many people waiting outside the White House to get on a bus that would take us directly down Pennsylvania Avenue to the site of the inauguration. The route we took was the exact route President Bush would soon be riding after taking the oath of office.

As we traveled down the wide thoroughfare of Pennsylvania Avenue, throngs of supporters, onlookers and revelers lined either side of the street, all wondering who was in this bus full of people who were traveling down the big, empty street.

Across from me on the bus sat Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey. I didn’t know who he was, but my father pointed him out to me, and I kindly asked him to sign my inauguration invitation. Behind me on the bus were also several congressmen and their families, as well as local politicians from several different states.

I remember the woman seated directly to my left had these humongous earrings in the shape of Texas, and written inside of them was the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas.” We were dropped off directly in front of the Capitol, where a guide met us and took us around to the other side near the main grandstand.

Christopher Martoche.

As we turned the corner I could see clear all the way down the Washington Mall, past the Washington Monument. It looked like hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps the entire world, were all standing in front of me.

It took us about 15 minutes to finally reach our seats, and as we walked down the aisle I looked behind me and saw Arnold Schwarzenegger with his wife, Maria. At the time, Arnold was my hero, my favorite actor in the world, and there he was sitting four rows behind me. I would’ve gone to the inauguration just to see him, let alone watch the president take the oath of office.

I wanted so badly to get an autograph from Schwarzenegger, but after signing a bunch, he told people he wanted to sit and watch the ceremony. I returned to my seat with the smug satisfaction of knowing I was closer to the stage than he was.

There were several speakers, and I remember looking up on stage and seeing President Bush raise his right hand, while President Reagan looked on. Everyone cheered as he finished his words to the nation in his inaugural address.

Off to my left the presidential helicopter lifted off with the former President Reagan, who was waving from the cockpit. This was to be his official exit from Washington, and the beginning of a new life, a private life, with Nancy.

This is one of the few events in my life that I understood was significant even at the time it was happening. I knew I was witnessing history, as the gatekeeper of our great nation was handed over to another.

We went back to the Treasury building and watched the parade from my father’s offices. The whole section of the building was packed with friends and family from Buffalo. We ate wings and pizza brought from Buffalo specially for the event. It was a little piece of home we enjoyed during such an incredible moment.

Rest in peace, President Bush.

Christopher Martoche is the son of Salvatore Martoche, who served as assistant Treasury secretary under Presidents Reagan and Bush.

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