WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nathan and Deborah Zehringer, of Jackson Center, witnessed history being made Friday when Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Nathan Zehringer, who served as the Shelby County chairman to elect Trump as president, received a formal invitation to the inauguration and ball two weeks ago from Trump’s campaign.
“We decided to make this (trip) happen,” said Zehringer.
And happen it did. The entire trip — from leaving home Wednesday morning to arriving back home Saturday night — was electric.
“We were truly blessed to be invited,” said Zehringer. “This was a reward for all the hard work we put into the campaign.”
They stayed at a hotel out of the city and traveled via Uber and the metro line into D.C.
“Thursday we did the touristy things,” he said.
That evening, they attended the Welcome Concert at the Lincoln Memorial. they had special seating for the concert.
“We got to sit up front and it was quite the experience,” said Zehringer.
During the inauguration on Friday, the couple was seated in the blue section, which was in the northwest area of the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
“It was hard to see him because of the angle, so we mainly watched it on the big TV screen,” he said. “I’m not one to get awestruck, but I was awestruck. It (ceremony) was nothing short of incredible.”
The pageantry involved with the transition from one president to another was a sight to behold, he said.
“It’s hard to articulate all our feelings about being there,” he said.
The couple saw the motorcade which carried Trump and former President Barack Obama to the Capitol.
After the inauguration, they were invited to a seated area to watch the parade. They decided not to stay for the parade since they had to go back to their hotel and get ready for the Freedom Ball Friday evening.
“We walked part of the parade route as we walked back to the train station,” said Zehringer. “We did watch it on TV.”
Zehringer said they didn’t encounter any protesters during their time in D.C. on Friday.
“In reality, it was very peaceful,” said Zehringer. “I think they (media) stretched it with all the protesters. They didn’t interrupt anything that Mr. Trump wanted to accomplish.”
The couple received an invitation to the Freedom Ball, which said Zehringer, was for the grass roots volunteers who helped get Trump elected president.
Another Shelby County volunteer, Chad Balser, who is a veteran, was also invited to the Freedom Ball.
“Everything had an electric feeling,” said Zehringer. “It was fascinating watching them (president, vice president, families) come into the ballroom for the first dance. It was incredible to watch it happen.”
The couple met Fox News personality Sean Hannity and took selfies with him.
“I’ve been to other big events,” said Zehringer. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime event. there was a feeling in the air at the convention hall. It was electric.”
While they didn’t get to talk to the new president at the ball — they had met him at campaign events in Ohio — the couple enjoyed the atmosphere of the entire event.
“We were mingling with some powerful people in the country,” said Zehringer.
The couple returned to Ohio Saturday — they decided not to stay for the women’s march that day.
“We got back to Ohio at 6 p.m., picked up our five kids and went home,” said Zehringer.
The experience almost didn’t happen for the couple. In 2015, Zehringer was ready to support John Kasich in his campaign to become president. But then Zehringer watched Trump announce he was running for president and his focus switched from the Ohio governor to the New York billionaire and businessman.
“When Mr. Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower, I knew he was the person I was going to support,” said Zehringer. “I emailed their campaign and became involved with the campaign.
“He’s not a classic politician,” he said. “He’ll speak to the issues no matter how people perceive him. I think he can overcome the political squabbles that we’re seeing. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but I wanted to see someone break down the wall in Washington and get things done.”
Zehringer made contact with Misty Waters, of Dayton, who was a paid staff member for the Trump campaign. He began campaigning for Trump in the primary.
“My wife and I were slated to be delegates if he had won Ohio,” said Zehringer.
Zehringer said he wasn’t a Trump person before the campaign — had never watched his TV show, “The Apprentice.”
“He’s authentic,” said Zehringer. “There’s no politician’s hat on when he says something. I believe his heart’s in the right place. He said he’s going to get things done and I love that.”