The ceremony was held in the Federal Courthouse in OKC on the 3rd floor in this very impressive and imposing courtroom. All 100 candidates for citizenship were checked in first, then we were rehearsed by our USCIS case officers and the show got underway promptly at noon.
The Hubster had a prime seat at the front of the courtroom and recorded it all.
After some introductions by the judge, we were all introduced by our home country and had to stand and wave our flag to applause/cheers from the onlookers. I was almost last being from the UK and there were 3 fellow Brits with me. This was the largest group from Mexico and they caused some laughter with their enthusiasm.
Then we had a video address by the President, welcoming us as fellow Americans which was also moving. But the humdinger tearjerker was the video that followed of Lee Greenwood singing God Bless the USA, with images of new citizens and the USA in all its glory. There was barely a dry eye in the room at the end and the collective national pride was a tangible thing.
Judge Gary Purcell said "I was warned I might find it hard to speak after that by my honorable colleague and he was not wrong" as he struggled to regain his composure and voice! This was his first citizenship ceremony in 31 years as a judge, and it very clearly mean't alot to him as well. He went out of his way to make us feel how much we had achieved and he just really added to the whole special feeling of the day.
Then one of our 'classmates' made a speech about his journey to citizenship. Dr. Calin Prodan was from Romania and grew up under communism and his heart felt speech about freedom touched everyone.
Here I am smiling for the camera!
This gentleman was the representative for Voter Registration and I shall not forget him in a hurry. His personality very much lived up to his appearance - eccentric, but having said that he was so nice with us all.
The judge addressed us all personally as his 'fellow Americans' and got a rousing response.
Then he told us he wanted us to do something never done before in a courtroom there, we were to make the loudest noise possible and he would only leave when he felt we were loud enough! So the whole courtroom chanted U-S-A with him as our cheerleader, shouting "louder" until he thought we were at our limit and he waved and left.
We spent another 40 minutes collecting our certificates, taking pictures under the seal and flags, changing our status with Social Security officials and registering to vote.
The it was off to lunch at Abuelo's in downtown OKC, sadly Pam OKC due to a foot injury only made the ceremony and not the celebratory lunch afterwards, but she kindly supplied the pictures. All of us present agreed the ceremony was really special, the authorities went out of their way to make it moving and memorable for us all. It was also nice to see the formerly scary USCIS case officers let their hair down, have fun, celebrate with us and even crack a joke about "just one more test"!
It was a long day and when we got home around 10:30pm we were met by another surprise!
One of my bestfriends who could not make the trip, had been around to the house and decorated liberally up the path and on the porch with flags and balloons. It was a perfect end to a special day!
I also received beautiful flowers from my 'Glambert' best buddy Mandy and her husband. Much to her disappointment she couldn't come with us, she was really missed and I appreciated their thoughtfulness.
When I got into work this morning the 4th grade had decorated my desk!
The 1st grade had made me a great big card!
I even had a special banner in the cafeteria and then the whole school sang me a patriotic song and gave me a 'Tony the Tiger' cheer! I also received more special gifts and I had another very special day thanks to my wonderful school and it's faculty.
So that's my final tangle with immigration and there ends a 5.5 year journey to it's culmination. The Hubster and I have been worn out and kind of flat since, we both think it's because we almost don't know what to do now and have been building towards this for so long!