Historic snapshots

Barack Obama The 44th President Of The United States Of America

Obama's Inauguration

January 21, 2009|By STEPHANIE DESMON

Around the city, the region, the country - and perhaps the world - people stopped what they were doing yesterday to take in the pageantry and the significance of the moment that a black man, the son of an African immigrant, became president of the United States. Some stayed close to home, gathering together to share this day in history. Those who made it to Washington braved low temperatures and enormous crowds - and even if they were hundreds of thousands of bodies away from the ceremony, stuck in place along the parade route without access to the TV screens showing the swearing-in, shut out of the places they hoped they'd be, they were excited they would have a story to tell from the day Barack Obama became the 44th president.

Compiled by Stephanie Desmon

History was waiting - but some people couldn't figure out how they were going to get there, or back.

So enthusiastic was Ragan Denton to see Barack Obama become the nation's first African-American president that she packed up her car, her boyfriend and her two daughters (ages 8 and 16) and drove 14 hours from Memphis to Baltimore for the inauguration. She had planned ahead as far as reserving a hotel room in the city back in September and thought she'd probably drive to Washington yesterday.

Last week, however, she snagged train tickets to Washington right before they sold out. Only glitch: The tickets were one-way.

Still, as she waited with swarms of others to board an early-morning train at Penn Station, Denton, 34, still considered the tickets a "blessing." She thrilled she would be a part of the celebration in D.C. and knew they'd come up with some way to get back. That was a worry for later.

Liz F. Kay

Those unlucky enough to be called for jury duty yesterday arrived at the Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse in Baltimore by 8:15 a.m. They were assured that a television would be set up for anyone who wanted to watch the swearing-in. Until then, Meet the Parents was the provided entertainment.

At 11:50, a jury room official announced that because of technical difficulties, the inauguration would not be shown. The potential jurors, who had been sitting all morning without a single judge calling for a jury, grumbled. But the official managed to get a live Internet video stream of the ceremony on a computer monitor at the front of the room. A dozen people crowded around, leaning in to hear the faint sound and shushing each other.

One man was able to call up an Internet feed on his laptop computer. The room broke into applause after Obama took the oath of office. A few people cried. Five minutes into the new president's address, a court official finally located a radio and turned up the volume so everyone could hear.

Still, many were disappointed that the courthouse had not made better provisions to show the inauguration in a city Obama won with 87 percent of the vote. "This is pathetic," said Lori McBee, 30, who lives in Mount Vernon. She called her husband and asked him to tape the ceremony.

After the radio broadcast, court officials continued the presentation of Meet the Parents. Not a single jury was called.

Stephen Kiehl

Their tickets should have put them within a few yards of the U.S. Capitol during the swearing-in, but after waiting in line for three cold hours yesterday morning, M. Shawn Copeland and Sister Dr. Jamie T. Phelps were turned away by officials who closed their entrance due to heavy crowds.

So the women returned to Union Station, where they figured they could at least watch the ceremony on TV. But there wasn't a television set to be found. Shortly before noon, they spotted a newspaper reporter watching a live video feed on his laptop. They asked to watch with him.

"It's a very important day," said Copeland, an associate professor at Boston College. "Probably more important than we realize."

Gus G. Sentementes

Feeling they wanted Inauguration Day to be a shared experience, hundreds of Marylanders poured into the Baltimore Convention Center's ballroom to witness the moment many saw as the beginning of a new era. The crowd, which had the feeling of a party with neighbors, waved small flags, cheered, hugged and cried as the new president was sworn in. They took pictures of the ceremony on television as though they were standing right there on the Mall.

The crowd didn't even become angry and impatient when the big live broadcast of the ceremony lost sound for a few minutes. Instead, many there talked about the need for people to come together and take more personal responsibility for their actions and their lives, themes that echoed Obama's.

Wesley Shaw, a 39-year-old city worker, said he had been changed by the election. He didn't believe that white America would ever elect a black man president, he said, but as Obama began winning one primary after another, he began to feel a new sense of citizenship. "During the primaries I started feeling like an American," he said.

Liz Bowie

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