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Tri-State residents celebrate Obama's day

January 20, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Shuffling through the streets of Washington, D.C., pressed against thousands of strangers was worth it. So were the lines that seemed to have no beginning or end.

The estimated crowd of 1 million to 2 million at President Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday didn't mind. It wasn't about them. It was about Obama.

And many Tri-State residents said Tuesday they were just glad to celebrate the day with the new president.

Anne Seibert, 64, of Clear Spring, was pushed, jostled and overpowered Tuesday, jockeying to get just a glimpse of the ceremony. Sadly, several large video screens set up at the National Mall were out of sight for Seibert, who was one of about 80 Tri-State residents who traveled to Washington on Tuesday on Kline Tours buses.

She compared the day to Christmas, saying it was a lot of anticipation and a bit of a letdown.

"I thought I would at least be able to see something," she said.

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Some in the crowd climbed trees and stood on portable toilets to see the large video screens showing the ceremony.

Still, Seibert does not regret her decision to brave the crowds, the traffic and the frigid weather. It was a special day -- the day she was part of history.

"Yes we can," Seibert said, using one of Obama's campaign slogans. "And yes we did."

Unable to see the inauguration ceremony, Seibert held her head down as Obama took the oath of office. As he uttered the last words of his oath, Seibert began clapping as the crowd erupted into applause.

The two Kline Tours buses made their first stop in Chambersburg, Pa., at 5:15 a.m. Many people boarded the buses in Hagerstown at 6 a.m. -- the third stop of the day. Though it was early, many got out of their cars chanting "Obama" and "Yes we can," holding signs and wearing Obama buttons.

Similar merchandise was sold in the areas surrounding the National Mall.

The drive to Washington, D.C., took much less time than expected. Garry Kline allowed six hours for the trip, which only took about an hour and a half -- less time than the trip takes on a normal day.

Seibert boarded in Hagerstown but said she should have stayed overnight in D.C. to get a closer view as the nation's first black president took office. She said she probably needed to get to the National Mall about two hours earlier in order to get a good view.

Laura Walker, 32, of Hagerstown, and her friend Latoya Younker, 34, of Hagerstown, said they watched the ceremony from a spot near the Lincoln Memorial. They were able to see Obama take the oath of office on a large video screen.

"It was amazing," Walker said. "It was unbelievable."

Walker said it was emotional for her, and several times she cried.

"I was just kind of in awe of everything," she said. "It was just ... all the people saying 'Obama,' and 'Yes we can.' Everyone was just so united today."

While the friends say the crowds were a bit overwhelming, they have no regrets about attending. They say it was important to be part of a historic event.

"I knew there were going to be a lot of people, but not that many," Younker said.

Like many others, Walker and Younker decided to skip the parade, which was running late, to head back to the Kline Tours bus.

"It was an awesome experience," Walker said. "A once-in-a-lifetime thing."

Shannon Satterfield, 19, of Chambersburg, Pa., cast her first vote in a presidential election for Obama, and said she was anxious to see him take office. Satterfield learned much about the candidates from her aunt, Brenda Scriptunas, 49, of Chambersburg. The two attended Tuesday with Satterfield's sister, Meagan Satterfield, 17.

"We were all really excited and excited to vote," Scriptunas said. "We've had eight really bad years."

Others at Tuesday's inauguration seemed to agree as they booed George W. Bush while he was onstage.

"The day was amazing, and while at times it was difficult to get around because of the massive crowds, there were few problems," Scriptunas said.

All three campaigned for Obama and said Tuesday was a gratifying experience that felt like a new beginning.

"Change has come," Scriptunas said.

Unable to see the ceremony up close or on the video screens, they listened to every word. Scriptunas cried listening to Obama's speech, particularly when he spoke of past racial struggles.

Laura Menard, 41, of Hagerstown, brought her stepson Nick Marschner, 13, of State Line, Pa., to Tuesday's inauguration.

"It's historic," Menard said. "I felt it was important to try to be a part of this day if we could."

Nick described the day as "hectic," saying he was pushed around a bit by the large crowd. He said he liked Obama's speech and was glad he made the trip with his stepmother.

"I've been excited for weeks to be here," Menard said. "I hardly slept last night."

Jeremy Osteen, 33, of Hagerstown, said he was engrossed by the hard-fought presidential campaign and said Tuesday's experience "was the exclamation point on following the last election cycle."

Though Osteen admits he would have seen more of the ceremony if he stayed home and watched it on television, he said being in the nation's capital on Tuesday was not an experience he would have traded for the comfort of home.

"I'm not a black American, but it's amazing to see the pride in the faces of older black Americans who experienced indignities I just cannot imagine," Osteen said.

Like many, Osteen said he was surprised by the good nature of the crowd. There was no fighting, and few foul words were spoken, he said. Most attributed the optimism of the crowds to Obama, who encouraged unity in his campaign, and in his speech Tuesday.

"Barack Obama has inspired so many," Osteen said. "He's just an inspirational figure. I couldn't not come (to his inauguration)."

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