My journey did not begin yesterday. It began a great number of years ago when I decided that I wanted to become an American. I tried getting accepted in the Navy back in 1975 and needed to have a sponsor, I’m not sure why, but maybe because I was female. I approached my Grandfather who was a permanent resident but he could do nothing.
You see when I was growing up our family had some financial difficulty and my dad couldn’t find a job in Canada in his trade. He searched high and low and finally was given a visa to work in the United States. He worked all over and my mom and my sisters and I would take advantage of holidays to visit him. I always kept this certain gratitude in the back of my head. Thank you America for helping sustain my family!
Fast forward a number of years and in 1998 I received my Permanent Residence card. I was able to work, collect a paycheck, pay taxes, help sustain the economy, and pretty much anything else most U.S. Citizens can do except vote and serve on a jury (well not that serving on a jury is a passion). It was always in the back of my mind and on the tip of my tongue what I would do and what I would say about the Political state in this country. Without a registered vote I really didn’t have a stake in it.
In March of this year I finally had the money and the courage to apply for citizenship. I had pictures taken, I filled out the necessary forms, obtained documents and had them notarized, and on March 12 I sent in my application for approval.
Within two weeks of this date I already had my biometrics appointment to have my fingerprinting completed. The technician joked with me and told me that I should be soaking my fingers in oil because my fingertips were so dry!
Six weeks later I received notice that I had an appointment for my interview! I studied the book with the 100 possible questions. I grabbed any willing friend or family member and had them administer the test to me. I would typically miss 1 question, maybe 2 out of the series of 100 questions.
The appointment date was finally upon me! June 13th 2012! I drove to the building in Centennial, went through security and was seated 20 minutes early for my 10:45 appointment. Immigration officers periodically appeared at one of the two doors and called off name after name. Finally, “Christine Kelly!” A smiling Immigration Officer called Bill met me at the door and shook my hand. He started the conversation with “How are you today?” I mean, what could I say other than “I am so excited!” We walked down the hallway and around the corner into his spacious office. I took a seat and Bill told me a bit about himself. We chatted for a few minutes and he administered my test consisting of 10 possible question of which I needed to correctly answer 6 of them. I answered the first 6! I really wanted to answer more because I felt I needed to prove that I really did know about the history and civics of the country I was going to be a part of very soon! I passed both the oral and written English test. Bill went over my application and checked everything off and had me sign it. It got out one final piece of paper and said to me, “Are you busy this afternoon at 1:30?” I said, “No. I’ll probably be at home by then.” He said, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to be part of the ceremony to become a United States citizen?” I almost screamed! I had tears welling up in my eyes! ME? YES!!! “Yes!” I said.
At 1:30 in the afternoon we joined in the same room we had been in that morning. The director gave us directions about what would happen when we reached the 3rd floor. Family on the right and potential citizens on the left. We left the room and filed into the elevator. Upon reaching the floor we were first greeted by an employee taking away our Permanent Residency Card knowing that it was because something better was coming! As we entered the hall, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution greeted us with an American flag! I was ecstatic! She said to everyone as they entered, “Congratulations!” I excitedly replied, “Thank you! I’m on top of the world!” She said, “I love your enthusiasm!” All 58 of us from 24 countries took our seats and leafed through the packets of information that were left on our seats.
The director explained the contents and then introduced a member of DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) who welcomed us as American Citizens. He then introduced a short video and explained that many other people had been in this vary stage of citizenship and to take a look! The video played. All of these people so excited and waving their flags! The emotion took over, I cried. I was feeling so many emotions! It was like a birth, I was invited to be part of a country I had admired for decades! I was one of these people in the video. It was like all of the people who you see being handed a key to the city! Only this was a red carpet being rolled out to a country I was REALLY going to be part of now. I dried my tears and the director explained that would we now sing the national anthem! I had sung it for years! I always loved the anthem! This time it had more meaning and I got one sentence out of my mouth and there came the tears! It choked me up. We finished singing the song and sat down and heard about some of the contents of our packet. We were then asked to rise. We were now going to be sworn in as United States Citizens. It felt as though I had electricity flowing through my body! It took a little more than 90 seconds and all 58 of us were citizens of a country I admired! Everyone clapped! President Obama played on the screen and told us he was proud of what we had accomplished! Again, I was overwhelmed with emotion! We were asked to rise and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The first time I could do this! The first time! It felt so good! The director asked how we all felt! I yelled, “I feel awesome! What an incredible day!” He said, “Such enthusiasm!”
On my way out I felt it was simply said but had so much meaning to me, when I said, “I am so proud to be an American!”