Taking It All In
Media General News Service
Published: January 20, 2009
WASHINGTON—The Indiana Avenue checkpoint into the National Mall was packed as thousands tried to get through it. Security was tight and officers checked everyone, one by one.
At about 11:50 a.m., the checkpoint closed. The faint echoes of the loudspeaker reverberated off the buildings.
At noon, President Barack Obama took the oath of office and began his speech. Joyce Miller, a teacher from Texas who drove 26 hours to get to Washington for the inauguration, listened to the speech on a portable radio. With an ear bud in her ear, she recited Obama’s speech nearly word-for-word to the crowd gathered around her.
“I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors,” she said in a clear and loud voice, repeating Obama’s words as she heard it. “Applause, applause.”
The crowd around her cheered and hung on her every word, as if they were crowded around a radio at home.
The Hunter family, from Kannapolis, N.C., stood in the line in freezing temperatures, waiting to get through to the parade route around Pennsylvania Avenue.
“It’s hard to explain what I’m feeling, being a black man, seeing the first African-American President of the United States,” said Anthony Hunter, Sr. “That’s huge and I’m proud of my country. I’m blessed to be here, me and my family.”
The Hunters—12 in all—stood in line at the checkpoint before heading to the parade route.
At Capitol Hill, Estelle Wiley and Misha Miller went through the yellow checkpoint to their seats near the West Portico.
“Miss Estelle was like Harriet Tubman,” Misha Miller said, “pressing on through the woods.”
She said Wiley would pull her through the crowds in Union Station, excited to get to the Capitol.
“She is 89 years old and she was pulling me,” Miller said.
“It was great, great, great,” Wiley said. “It was something I had never seen before and it was something I never thought I would see. I thank God that I’m here.”
The crowd inside the gates near the Capitol was “humbled,” Misha Miller said. She stood beside singer Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon and saw other celebrities. But Miller said no one crowded around them.
“They were there for Barack,” she said.
Lynn Marsh, principal at Odell Elementary School in Concord, N.C, said she thought of John F. Kennedy when she heard Obama speak today.
“I heard what he was saying and I thought of JFK,” she said. “He has the same kind of charisma and hope and is able to bring people together, no matter what race you are.”
Marsh said the number of youth attending the inauguration was exciting for her to see.
“I’ve been so impressed talking with them,” she said. “This is something they have witnessed in their lifetimes. They are so excited about being a part of it.”
Gabbie Leeper stood near the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol with her youth conferees. She said the mood was moving.
“People were crying out of joy,” she said. “They were calling family, they were smiling. It was vibrant. I am so happy to be a part of that.”
When they reached the gate and got through security, Miss Estelle said, “We made it.”
“I’d think it was more than just physically being there,” Misha Miller said. “I think, in her heart, and relating to the discrimination she has seen, she was saying, ‘We have overcome.’”
Page 1 of 1