Upstate teacher, students miss Inauguration for first time in years

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GAFFNEY, S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate man who’s made it a tradition to attend the inauguration missed it for the first time in years this year.

“There’s not one part of our life that this virus has not touched,” George Duncan said.

Gaffney High School U.S. History teacher George Duncan said he’s gotten used to a new way of teaching, but he’s having a hard time accepting the other things that COVID has changed.

“It’s starting to take away from life experiences–whether it’s no Homecoming or no prom or no senior dance or no field trip or whatever. You’re starting to take away moments from these students’ lives that they’ll never get back,” he said.

Duncan told 7 News the virus has already forced students to miss enough, and it makes him sad to see a special, traditional trip added to that list: a trip to attend the presidential inauguration.

“I hate it for the students because they’re missing out and they’ll never get another chance to do this,” he said.

Duncan’s classroom is full of inauguration memorabilia from over the years–proof of the history he and students have gotten to be a part of. It’s a trip, he said, they look forward to every time.

“I wanted to go this year, just because it’s something new and something different to experience,” student Katelyn Hogg said. “I’ve never been to D.C. before, so it’d be a whole new experience for me–and in Inauguration year would just make it something more special to remember.”

In fact, students from Gaffney High School have taken a trip to D.C. just about every year–inauguration or not–since 1997.

“Some of these kids, this is the only time they will ever get outside Cherokee County,” Duncan said. “When you can make this dream come true for one of them, and they get to see it, it just inspires them to dream and know there is more outside of Cherokee County.”

Duncan told 7 News he believes the trip brings the history he teaches to life.

“For them to put together what they’ve learned in the classroom with what they’re seeing with their own eyes, it’s kind of a special moment,” he said.

This year, because of COVID, Duncan and his students had to settle for watching the historic event through a screen; but, he said, he hopes his students will remember that that in itself is pretty historic.

“This will be in the history books,” he said. “When I’m retired and dead and gone, they’ll be reading about 2020.”

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