Witnessing History

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By Michael Hewlett/Media General News Service
Published: January 20, 2009

WASHINGTON—Valerie Davies was at the opposite end of the National Mall when Barack Obama was sworn in as president today, part of a small group of Winston-Salem locals who had gathered by the Washington Monument during the inauguration.

“This is like a restoration period,” she said.

Davies was part of a group of about 100 people who left the Triad yesterday morning to take part in today’s inauguration.

James Y. Hunder Sr., a native of Liberia who now lives in Winston-Salem, was also part of the group. He said he enjoyed being in the large crowd that flooded Washington for the inauguration.

“Being a part of this is going to fulfill my desire for what has been happening, to be a part of history,” he said. “For me, it’s a new day in the history of the country. And not just this country… What happens here, the rippling effect is felt everywhere.”

Footage of Sunday night’s concerts from artists such as Stevie Wonder and Bono were replayed on large screens lining the mall this morning. A crowd of people erupted in cheers when a replay of Obama’s Sunday night speech was replayed.

Along the streets lining the mall, vendors sold items that included hats, T-shirts, and with temperatures in the 20, ear muffs.

Winston-Salem resident Nigel Alston was about 200 yards from the stage where Obama will soon take the oath of office.

Alston said he was awed by the crowd, many of whom were chanting “Obama, Obama, Obama” as Malia and Sasha Obama, the young daughters of the president-elect, made their way to the stage.

“It’s just incredible,” said Alston, a columnist for the Journal who attended the inauguration with his wife, Sarah. “Just a sea of people as far as you can see. This is just incredible.”

Mikki Hill, 26, came from Winston-Salem with his mother.

“It’s not just about a black president,” he said. “Everybody is behind him. Everybody’s come from as far as the earth is wide.”

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