Inauguration-goers brave crowds, cold

January 20, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WASHINGTON -- For eight years, Maria Banks has hoped for change in her country.

Change that would melt the stigma and dull the surprise of electing a black commander-in-chief.

Change that could unite those left and right of the political divide.

Change that should give a new reason to hope.

Barack Obama, she said, is hope.

Banks and 26 residents from Franklin and Adams counties in southcentral Pennsylvania braved the bitter cold, epic crowds and gridlocked infrastructure Tuesday to live the change at the 2009 inauguration.

"O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" they shouted with the crowd, pounding fists into the air.

Obama. His name was everywhere in the district Tuesday from the jumbo screens to the buttons and T-shirts hawked on the streets.


"Obama. When I hear someone say his name, I feel pride, accomplishment and happiness," said Jamia Wright of Chambersburg, Pa. "Pride in his accomplishments and happiness he has opened the door for so many others to walk through."

Allen Butler of Chambersburg said he felt the love America had for its new leader as the crowd of millions chanted the president's name.

Love rose like heat off the crowd, he said.

Even when President George W. Bush walked onto the screen and the crowd began to boo the 43rd commander in chief, Butler said he felt the love of Obama prevail.

"When they started to boo Bush, I heard this lady say 'Obama would not want us to boo him (Bush),'" he said. "You could just feel the love as the boo went away."

What remained in everyone's mind as they fought their way out of the city was not the last eight years, but Obama's speech on Tuesday.

His words of faith, struggle and even terrorism had the Franklin County residents talking politics the entire ride home.

Speaking of unity, progress and, yes, change, the newly inaugurated president offered hope to America, along with a challenge to grow.

And while Conroy Smith of Chambersburg could not hear all of Obama's speech from his seat, he said he did not need to hear Obama's words because he could feel his message spread through the crowd.

The man who connected with young and old during the campaign filled the atmosphere with electric excitement, Smith said.

As the electricity waned into exhaustion for those up since very early Tuesday morning, the ride home made everyone think of the coming four years.

Ben Raber of Chambersburg said it is too much to ask one man to unite such a divided nation in four short years.

Banks agreed, saying while she has a new hope, she regards the future with caution.

America pinned its hope on a new leader Tuesday, a leader whom many expect to turn domestic and foreign policy on its head, but she warned against expecting too much of Barack Obama.

"He is not God, he is just a man," she said. "No president can make everyone's dream come true, meet everyone's expectations, but he will make a difference."

The Herald-Mail Articles