Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday as the first woman to become vice-president of the United States. She is also the first woman of colour and the first woman of south-Asian descent to hold the office.
Watched around the world, the inauguration ceremony was celebrated in Montreal — the place Harris once called home.
“It was so chilling and moving,” said Wanda Kagan, a classmate of Kamala Harris while they both attended Westmount High.
“She called just before being sworn-in, having those few special moments of conversation on the eve before going in is what I think had me much more emotional than I expected, tears and all.”
It’s in Westmount High that one can argue the seed to serve was implanted for Harris.
Kagan and Harris were best friends while they both attended the school. She says Harris helped her get through an abusive situation in her home.
Years later, Harris became a prosecutor, saying she was inspired by her friend: “to protect people like her,” Harris said in a video released in September.
“It’s an amazing feeling for me,” Kagan said. “I’ve always known how much she impacted my life, but to know that I impacted her career path and her path to the White House … That made it all the more special.”
At the new vice-president’s alma mater, Westmount High students took some time off school to watch the historic moment unfold.
“The energy has been absolutely palpable the past few weeks in the school,” said Westmount High Grade 10 student AJ Itovitch.
“There’s such an amazing sense of pride watching one of our own Knights be sworn in.”
Itovich said that over the past few weeks, students put up flyers and posters, “doing all we can to just take in all of this.”
“It’s just that sudden feeling when you look around you in your classroom and you think to yourself, ‘one of us could be the next Kamala Harris,'” Itovich said after watching the inauguration.
For A’Dejah Edouarzin Merriman, a Grade 11 student, watching Harris shatter a glass ceiling by becoming the first woman of colour to hold the office was an inspiring moment: “seeing people like me out there and knowing that I can do that too,” she said.
As the task ahead to heal a nation divided seems huge, Harris can always look back to her former home for encouragement, where a legion of fans and friends stand behind her, cheering her on.
“If anybody can do it, she can do it,” said Trevor Williams, who went to Westmount High with Harris’s sister. “She’s going to do a great job, I’m rooting for her.”