When we parked I saw a young couple. She was wearing a red scarf and they both looked smartly dressed and I had a feeling they were going to the court house too. As we walked towards and into the courthouse we were joined by a few people and you look at each other and smile and feel a certain bond.
When we entered we went through security and then met the woman (I'm going to call her The General) who would be in charge of the proceedings. She was very commanding but so friendly and funny. I was in awe of her all day. She marched up and down telling us what to do, herded us into the right room, to the right seat, with the right paperwork, at the right time. Craig and I were immediately separated which we thought was horrible but we came back together for the important bit, the oath.
|In the preparation room. The General is front center. On the TV is a message from President Obama|
After we did a lot of the paperwork (including voting registration) we watched a lovely message from President Obama welcoming us as citizens and then The General gave us flags and we all sang "I'm proud to be an American". The General riled us all up and made us sing as part of a competition. I was in group A and Craig in B. She was stood right in front of Craig and kept egging him on, which if you know Craig was torture! If you look you'll see the girl in the red scarf on the bottom right supporting her Spanish husband and she's crying, then a man comes and hugs her. He was from the Ukraine, and he's crying also. That's how this event was - very loving and emotional.
So here we all are, singing. I'm filming, Craig is center right.....
I was sat at next to a young Indian man who wanted to talk about politics but I steered him to more fun topics. The lady sat on the other side of me was from Jamaica and obviously missed it very much.
After two hours of paperwork we were led through to the courthouse. On the way The General told a woman wearing jeans that she might be told by the judge to leave (no jeans allowed). She also said that if our mobile phones rang we'd be fined $100 so I had mine on airplane mode, and turned right down and I was still nervous about it. But I wanted to take pictures and capture the moment since she told us it was allowed.
At this point Craig and I came back together and were allowed to sit together. The judge entered and we all rose. And now comes the BEST part. Each person had to stand up and say their name, country of origin, how long they had been in the states and what citizenship meant.
There was 56 of us, from 32 countries. Countries like the UK, Canada, South America, Mauritania, Somalia, Ghana, Bu tan, Iraq, Morocco, Ukraine, Russia, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Ghana, and Ethiopia.
Many people had come from countries with civil war and horror and certain death. They were so thankful to be in a country of freedom and civil rights. All of us said we loved the USA. Many spoke of hope, opportunity, friendliness, liberty and love. A Moroccan man told us that the day he arrived he went to Kroger and didn't speak English but someone helped him buy food. A 79 year old Indian Grandmother tapped me on the shoulder, held my hand and touched my face with love. A woman broke down as she talked about living in America her whole life, since she was a baby, and wanting to be a citizen. A young Canadian Couple befriended me and Craig and she shared tissues with me when we got emotional during the event.
I might not always remember their stories or their faces but I will always remember that feeling of absolute love and solidarity in that courtroom. It was an amazing thing to witness and to feel. When we left I held the old Indian woman's hand to steady her and we hugged.
The judge was so great - funny and kind and welcoming. He made an effort to welcome each one of us. After the oath to the US we all did the pledge of allegiance (I kept thanking Danny in my head for saying it so often) and then we celebrated! We all kissed, hugged, and took pictures of each other. I'll never see those people again but we have a lifelong bond.
One of my favourite lines of the day - as The General was guiding us all into the courtroom she had an order: older people, then women and children, and then men. Some men tried to push in and she sent them to the back and said "You're American now. Women first. You better get used to it".
|After the oath|
|A letter from President Obama|
Afterwards, at 3pm, Craig and I finally went for something to eat and talked about it all. We both feel so lucky to be here. We love the USA. But we also love England of course and aways will. We can love both, right?