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Hundreds Of Thousands Gather On National Mall For Inauguration Ceremony


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Melissa Block on this inaugural Monday, and let's head out and join the hundreds of thousands of people who were streaming down to the National Mall this cold January morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Get your inaugurational programs, people. If you do not have your program, you are uncool people.

BLOCK: Walk past the vendors hawking inaugural programs, inaugural poems, bookmarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Bookmarkers, bookmarkers, moving forward, cheapest souvenir on the block.

BLOCK: Past the buttons and posters and plastic Barack Obama heads, and, of course, T-shirts, one saying, yes, we did times two.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Ten-dollar T-shirts, long sleeve, short sleeve.

BLOCK: And follow the perky volunteers directing the crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Woo-hoo. Guess what. You guys are going in the right direction: thataway. Small kids. They're cute. Hold on to them. You don't want someone thinking they're theirs.

TANIYA WASHINGTON: I can't see anybody and Obama.

BLOCK: In the heart of the packed mall, I spotted 2-year-old Taniya Washington(ph). She was clutching a small American flag in each hand and waving them gleefully. She had a great view - high up on her uncle Chise Nicholson's(ph) shoulders.

CHISE NICHOLSON: History in the making. I say, right here, this is the first steps, T.T. Y'all next. Y'all next. That's what I'm telling them. You guys are the future.

BLOCK: It was hard to miss Reverend Dolly Jones in the crowd. She was wearing a fabulous wide-brimmed hat, an explosion of fuchsia and black feathers.

REVEREND DOLLY JONES: It's one of those hats that you normally wear - you wouldn't wear to church, of course, because it would be too abstract.

BLOCK: Jones was holding a sign that said: Pray for President and first lady Obama. She had come up on a bus from Augusta, Georgia.

JONES: I felt that I must come here to be of support because it was a much different election. You know, what I'm so grateful for, as I walk through, is to see these young people - all ages, black, white, Hispanics - and this encourages me to see these young people coming to support the president.

BLOCK: Tim Eatman(ph) drove down from Syracuse, New York, with his wife and two daughters. They were here four years ago for the first Obama inauguration and felt it was important to come back for this one. I asked him if he has one wish for President Obama's second term.

TIM EATMAN: My initial reaction as an African-American man is that he be able to live, honestly.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Do you mean...

EATMAN: Survive, right. That was my thought in '09. I thought we were going to see an assassination. That's my reality. In my circles, it's one of the first conversations we have, just about him being able to avoid something like that.

BLOCK: I asked Rosanne(ph) and Ron Norwood(ph), an interracial couple here from Milwaukee, what they're most concerned about for the next four years. Gun control, Roseanne said first.

ROSANNE NORWOOD: You know, I guess I think about the economy the most, you know, I guess. I work with homeless people, so I see people at their worst, and there's just so - there's so much inequality, I think, as a country still, so equality for me and any number of deals. But racial, you know, it's not where obviously it should be. But people think - a lot of people, white people - think it's, yeah, you know, it is where it should be, but I don't think it is.

RON NORWOOD: It's all about what people think is possible. And if the kids see this president, I hope they understand that it's - it is historical and they don't take it for granted. It's important. It truly is historic.


BLOCK: As the president took the stage, the crowd came alive.


BLOCK: And as James Taylor sang "America, the Beautiful," voices lifted to join him.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) From sea to shining sea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.