Naturalization ceremonyApproximately 100 people became United States citizens Wednesday during a naturalization ceremony at the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building.
Family and friends huddled in the crowded courtroom, hushing fussy babies and curious toddlers and snapping photos of a momentous day.
In the throng of people, more than 100 seated and standing in Chattanooga's federal courthouse, some had waited months, others years for the half-hour ceremony and a piece of paper that could change their lives.
"April 11, 2012," Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier told the audience.
"April 11, 2012," he repeated. "Along with your birthday and wedding anniversary, you now have another special day in your lives -- the day you became citizens of the United States of America."
On Wednesday morning, 49 people officially joined the teeming masses of more than 300 million citizens in this country. They smiled and hugged and shook hands and posed for pictures and walked out of the courthouse with all the rights and responsibilities granted to those born in the U.S.
Before they swore an oath of allegiance to the United States as a group, each stood, stating his or her name and country of origin.
"Martin Tuffour, Ghana."
"Santiago Correa, Ecuador."
"Zeljka Simic, Bosnia."
"Fanta Sackor, Liberia."
Twenty-seven countries in all were represented in the mix.
Some wore suits and ties, collared shirts. Others donned bright pink and white or dark red robes of their homeland. Women had styled their hair up or back, others wrapped themselves in traditional headscarves of their faith.
Each had his own story and journey.
Simic came to this country 16 years ago, tired of the fighting in Bosnia. She cooks.
Correa moved here nine years ago, has married and fathered children. He’s finishing a stint in student teaching and wants to work in a high school and coach soccer.
Tuffour came here first when he left Africa then traveled to Australia for training as a geologist but America is where he and his family now call home.
Husband and wife, Claus and Isabell Daniel moved from Germany to this country seven years ago and became permanent residents. Then, while living in Knoxville, they decided it was natural to “take all the responsibilities and the rights of a citizen here,” Claus Daniel said.
Jo Hill, vice regent with the Nancy Ward Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, shared a welcome and some perspective with the new citizens. She explained that she and other members of the organization trace their ancestry to colonists who fought or supported the war that created the nation.
“However, today I am no more a citizen than you are,” she said.
She and other members handed out American flag pins, a symbol of the shared citizenship and regard for the country’s future, she said.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...