So here I am, an American citizen - yay - November 7th was a surreal bitter sweet sort of day for me starting with a two hour drive down to Roanoke to get sworn in at the District Court. Sweet because of course I was becoming a US citizen, and was about to be awarded the same rights and freedoms as everyone else in this country and bitter because of the realization that I would have to forego all allegiances to my country of origin...my native Great Britain, a country I love and where all my roots are tied to.
"8.30am prompt" was written in bold type on the invitation to attend the ceremony. Unfortunately, prompt to the courts means 'get here on time to wait in a huge long line of people to sign in'. So a few hours of waiting follow, in which time I make friends with a very sweet Vietnamese girl sitting to my right, and hash out the weeks political 'goings on' with anyone who wanted to listen or had an opinion.
The judge decided to make a very formal appearance at 11am and the ceremony began, starting with us all being introduced to the judge individually (and we had to stand up one at a time). Once standing we all gave our commitment oath and our pledge of allegiance (which I knew all the words to as I have said it at the kids' school a thousand times, although I probably shouldn't have as I wasn't a citizen at the time... :-) - oh well)... and then followed a few speeches from the judge and his fellow court people, the INS representatives, the families (some tearjerkers) and even from some of the people becoming citizens that day. There was a real feeling of gratitude amongst the people sitting in the court that day, friends, families, court workers, soon-to-be-citizens, with the humble feeling that we shouldn't take the liberty this country offers us for granted. So many people becoming citizens that day grew up with oppression, communism or simply a poor quality of life in their native born countries and were just so grateful for the chance of freedom, it was overwhelming. It's really hard to visualize someone else's life unless you have walked a mile in their shoes, but that day I felt like we were a "unified people" with only one goal... "Liberty and justice for all..."