LARGO — Adam and Helen Marsh sat in their matching recliners Tuesday, glued to the television as Barack Obama was sworn in as the United States' 44th president.
Residents of Regal Palms Premier Assisted Living facility in Largo, the two became a bit anxious as noon approached.
"Let's get on with it," said Helen Marsh, 72.
At 12:05 p.m., Obama's face was centered in the television frame.
"There's that smile," Helen said warmly.
As Obama began to take the oath, she said, "What a day!" and clapped her hands once.
Her husband, Adam, 78, sat quietly and watched. Helen pulled a tissue out of her pocket and wiped her eyes.
Married for 48 years, the two moved to Largo about two years ago after retiring from Ohio University. Adam was the director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Helen was a clerical worker.
"It's just absolutely a good day in America," Adam said. "I never thought I'd live to see it."
Adam grew up in North Dakota. He said his first real contact with blacks was when he was in college. Helen, who is from Long Island, also said it was later in life that she had meaningful contact with blacks.
"My father was a dairy farmer, and we used to deliver milk," Adam said. "There was this one black woman we delivered to, and I couldn't figure out why she was out there hundreds of miles away from everyone."
A person's race was never a concern for them, and they raised their two children, now 46 and 43, to think the same way. The Marshes are hopeful that Obama's election can continue to heal America's wounds.
"It's just an exciting day," Helen said. "We have an intelligent person taking the office, and if we all pull with him, we can make some good change."
Adam added some caution.
"I'm a little worried, though, that the expectation is so high that if things don't go well for him (Obama), it could set back race relations," he said. "No one can meet all those expectations.
"There are enough mean-spirited people in America that they are going to start digging out this race thing again, and that could set things back and that would be a tragedy."
Helen then chimed in, "I'm a bit optimistic."
Adam went on to say that the inauguration of Obama is about more than race. He said it is a true testament that in America, anyone can achieve anything.
"I get a little sick of this notion that a leader has to come from some dynasty like in Europe," he said. "He's not a Kennedy, a Bush, a Clinton, a Gore. It's a wonderful example of how we can grow our leaders and not inherit them."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org