RFA grad in nation’s capital for business but misses out on inauguration

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While on a business-related trip to the Washington, D.C. area this week, Rome Free Academy alumnus Nick Clifford thought he would try to see the inauguration Wednesday of Joe Biden as president. But he didn’t get very far after flying in to Washington on Tuesday.

Clifford left Washington late Tuesday night to return to his home in the Birmingham, Alabama area after he “did what I had to do for work,” he said Wednesday, but not before encountering numerous traffic jams, bridge closures and military/law enforcement checkpoints while in a taxi. He ended up leaving the taxi and walking over four miles to “where I needed to go” for his work-related matters, and estimated that during his travels he probably got “about a mile away” from the inauguration site.

Clifford, 28, a 2010 RFA graduate who grew up in Rome, had served four years active duty in the Marines after high school including seeing combat in Afghanistan and leaving as a corporal, plus four years in reserve. While the environment he saw in Washington, D.C. this week was not a war zone, he saw similarities to military preparations.

“It reminded me of a NEO (Noncombatant Evacuation Operations) operation,” he commented; that situation can involve a location such as an embassy, and military personnel “cordon off all entry and exit points” in an area and leave a “clear avenue to get out.”

Clifford estimated he has been to Washington, D.C., 15 or 20 times before but had “never seen anything like this” regarding the setting there this week.

Clifford said he did try to get a hotel for Tuesday night, but many were “packed” while those that still had rooms were charging about “$700 a night.” Even if he had tried to spend the night there, he observed, he worried that if some type of incident at the inauguration did occur, there might be “no guarantee” he would be able to get out of Washington.

Trying to see the inauguration had been a “totally spur-of-the-moment” matter, said Clifford. He had heard he might not be able to do so because of the intensive security procedures, but “I just wanted to see if it was possible.”

He said of his overall experience there, “it’s interesting.”

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