I was hoping to hear a firsthand account of the inauguration. This being Forest Park, I happened to drive past my neighbor Rory Hoskins’ house, just as the commissioner and family were getting home from D.C. I later learned they had rushed back to Forest Park for a reason.

They had made the trek to Washington because Rory and his wife Monique were determined their three kids see the new president sworn in. They had piled into their van and driven through a snowstorm for 17 hours. About 757 miles later, they reached a motel within walking distance of the Mall.

The next morning they bundled the kids in snowsuits and arrived at their section at 6:15. They didn’t get screened in until 9:30, but didn’t mind the wait. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers from every region, ethnic background and age group, the Forest Parkers soaked in the festive spirit. They also spotted celebrities like Muhammad Ali, Oprah and Colin Powell taking their seats.

When Bush and Cheney appeared, Rory heard some “immature” spectators booing. Later, his son took a photograph of Bush’s departing helicopter, which Rory intends to frame.

The Hoskins were about 120 yards from the podium, with a big screen TV directly in front of them. His kids were too short to see, so Rory took turns lifting them up to watch the proceedings. He was proud that Robert, Jasmine and Jesse were able to stand six hours in 30-degree temperatures, without complaining about the cold.

There were prayers and songs and Rory didn’t notice the flub during the swearing in. He thought the inaugural speech was great but just the fact that Barack Obama was up there made it memorable.

Rory had first met Obama in 2001, while the then state senator was riding an exercise bike. Rory introduced himself and they continued to bump into each other at political events for the next seven years. Obama was always so cordial; Rory sent a $50 contribution for his U.S. senate race.

Rory said the trip to D.C. has inspired him to put in more hours to become a better commissioner. He took to heart Obama’s words about putting aside “childish things” to restore faith in government.

While they were in Washington, Rory and Monique received invitations to an inaugural ball. They didn’t think of leaving their kids to attend. Instead, they woke at 2 a.m. to head back to Forest Park. Why? Jasmine had a beginner band concert at the middle school.

As Rory said, “Kids remember what you do with them, more than what you do for them. Experiences mean more than material things.”