Local Politics

From D.C. to Triangle, crowds cheer landmark moment

Posted January 20, 2009 7:06 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— An estimated 2 million people packed the National Mall on Tuesday to watch Barack Obama take his oath of office, and millions more watched from elsewhere in Washington and in small parties across the country.

Waves of excitement spread through the crowd when Obama made history as the nation's first African-American chief executive and then delivered a stirring inaugural address. He urged people to lift the nation out of its economic doldrums and set it on the path to once again be a world leader.

"I cried. You could not help but be moved to tears," Franklinton Mayor Elic Senter said. "I really think the president was able to say everything he wanted to say with few words. I think he made a statement because he also knew the world was watching."

"The speech was great. It really seemed to energize the crowd we were in," said Christine Castaloe, of Raleigh. There (was) a lot of 'Amen' and 'Yes, sir,'" which was interesting to see. Everyone was listening and taking part."

The crowd was double the previous record for the National Mall, and many people who made the trek to Washington to experience the inauguration firsthand were turned away.

"I expected a lot of people, but I still thought we'd get far enough to be able to see something," said a disappointed Johnnie Robinson, of Cary.

"I walked away," said his wife, Olivia Robinson. "The crowds were a little bit carried away. When you have that many people, folks get a little carried away, and there's just too much pushing and shoving for me."

Joseph Perry came from New Orleans to be on the mall, but he never made it.

"I wanted to be here. I wanted to be a part of this. This is history, and there's nothing wrong with being part of history," Perry said.

"The crowd is tremendous, more than I've ever seen," he said. "New Orleans is a Mardi Gras city, and (there is) no comparison to the crowd. This is mad."

Much smaller crowds gathered 200 miles away in Raleigh to celebrate and reflect upon the historic moment.

"As an American, (I'm) truly humbled. As a citizen of the world, "(I'm) totally awe-inspired, said Mike Gould, who watched the inauguration at Raleighwood Cinema in Raleigh, where 13th District Congressman Brad Miller organized a party.

"It's just an awesome journey that this country is on about change and his spirit of community," Sheilah Sutton said.

"I believe all Americans have some common values that defy party lines," said Debbie Sherrod, a lifelong Republican who watched the inauguration on television.

Across town, snow fell on the campus of St. Augustine's College as students of the historically black school huddled in front of a big-screen television in a building named for Martin Luther King Jr.

"You hear elderly people say they remember when they went to see Dr. King, and it's like I (will) remember when I was sitting here watching Obama's inauguration," Jonelle-Alexis Jackson said. "I am actually a part of history."

Even though the Obama administration began with high hopes, his supporters know the process of governing won't always be smooth.

"I think we all have to understand that nothing happens overnight," Senter said. "My predecessor told me before I stepped into office that nothing moves as slow as government. It's like molasses in winter uphill."