‘You just feel the warmth’
By Jim Nolan/Media General News Service
Published: January 21, 2009
WASHINGTON—Betty Reed stood in the bright sunshine on the gently sloping lawn just in front of the Washington Monument, impervious to the cold, willing to wait just a bit longer for a day she thought would never come.
She was a long way from the Capitol and Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln’s Bible, but this close to history.
“It’s not important that I see. It’s important that I hear,” said the 77-year-old grandmother from Pensacola, Fla.
“If you had been through what I had been through in my lifetime .¤.¤. ” she said. “It was something that if I died tomorrow I would not care,” she added. “Because I witnessed something I thought I’d never see. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it.”
Reed said her husband, John Reed Jr., worked for the Democratic Party’s executive committee in Florida for years. He died in 1997.
“My husband worked so hard with Kennedy, and .¤.¤. he didn’t live to see it,” said Reed. “So now, I’m witnessing this for both of us.”
Reed arrived in Washington with friends and family on Sunday. They visited the Lincoln Memorial. And over the last three days, she said she saw history come alive.
“It’s a totally different spirit — it’s phenomenal,” she said. “You just feel the warmth just generating from one person to the other.”
That warmth, Reed is convinced, has a transformative power. And for a while today, the sheer volume of bundled bodies amassed on the National Mall actually seemed to generate a warmth that kept the biting cold and chilly winds in abeyance.
“I feel the love that’s just coming from every part of the world. I just feel it. It’s just been a happy, wonderful feeling I’ve had,” Reed said. “It’s remarkable. It really is.”
Then Reed saw Obama take the oath of office, broadcast on a large color monitor posted just north of the Washington Monument under which she stood.
She was overcome with emotion. Tears streamed freely down her cheeks.
“Yes,” she said simply.
Then she broke down, sobbing on a stranger’s shoulder.
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