Knox teacher gets invitation to witness history

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Shirley Moss said students at Knox Middle School have been preparing her for next week’s visit to Washington, D.C., and Barack Obama’s inauguration.
With the Washington hordes likely to total in the millions, students have been helping Moss get ready for what awaits her.
“I’ve been practicing how to maneuver, how to get through the crowds,” Moss said of the lessons she’s been working on during class changes in Knox’s hallways. “The kids are getting a kick out of it.”
It’s nothing compared to the kick Moss is expecting to get next week when she travels to Washington.
Moss, 59, who has been teaching history at Knox for almost 30 years, was planning to attend Tuesday’s inauguration, regardless.
But on Saturday, she got word from U.S. Rep. Mel Watt’s office that she’d been selected to receive a pair of tickets to stand in front of the reflecting pool on the National Mall and hear Obama’s inaugural address.
The tickets provide better access to the ceremony than will be provided the general public.
Moss and her husband, Grady, will be using the tickets. They picked them up Thursday at Watt’s office in downtown Salisbury.
“I believe I’ll be a living resource for this,” Moss said. “Everybody can’t go. I’ll be glad to go in their stead.”
Moss said she’ll return to Knox and teach students about all she experienced in Washington. She’s expecting a grand time, she said.
“This has put a whole new light on my trip,” Moss said of the tickets. “It has made it that much more special.”
Moss said Watt’s office asked that any of his constituents interested in inauguration tickets write and express their wishes. Moss included an essay explaining why she thought she was deserving.
Moss said that in her essay, she mentioned the students she teaches and her family and community. She also mentioned, Moss said, her parents, the late Corneila and Claiborne Cartwright, and how proud they would be that Obama was elected.
Moss said her father played in the Negro Baseball League before blacks were allowed to play in the Major Leagues. She said he later worked as a guard in the Tennessee prison system, even serving as a guard for James Earl Ray, convicted of the murder of civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Moss said her mother was a believer in people and always encouraged individuals to strive to perform at the utmost of their abilities. Moss said her mother answered the phone by saying, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Moss said her going to Washington to see Obama’s inauguration is something that would have made both her parents proud.
She said she and her husband, who is retired, went to Greensboro to see Obama when he made a campaign stop there last fall. But she said the crowd was so large and enthusiastic that she barely caught a glimpse of the president-to-be.
Moss is hoping for a better view of Obama next week.
“Now I can get closer and focus in,” she said.
Moss said it’ll be an experience she’ll always cherish.
“It’s such a blessing at this time,” she said.
According to a spokesman for Watt, there was much more of a demand for tickets than there were tickets available. Watt received 196 tickets for distribution.
Seventy of the tickets were allocated to elected officials and community and religious leaders. The remaining 126 were allocated throughout Watt’s 12th District counties based on the relative populations of those counties.
A lottery was held based on requests from constituents from each county. Rowan constituents received 12 tickets and Cabarrus constituents got two. The larger number of tickets went to Mecklenburg (44) and Guilford (27) counties.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222.