Record numbers bear the cold to usher in new president

Njeri Griffin of Decatur, GA bows her head during the invocation led by Pastor Rick Warren on Tuesday.

Image by Stephen Maturen

Njeri Griffin of Decatur, GA bows her head during the invocation led by Pastor Rick Warren on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON âÄî Armed with little more than a hooded jacket, a pair of fingerless gloves and an excited demeanor, Christopher Bromson, 21, danced to stay warm while watching the presidential swearing-in Tuesday morning. He was one of thousands of spectators huddled together in throngs like emperor penguins, scattered across the Capitol area. Bromson, who goes to the City University of New York, took a four hour bus ride from lower Manhattan and slept briefly on a friendâÄôs couch in order to witness the inauguration. âÄúThe energy is cool and itâÄôs been a while since IâÄôve visited D.C.,âÄù he said. âÄúIt would be foolish to not come.âÄù The audience watched a Jumbotron projection in the shadow of the Washington Monument, approximately a mile away from the actual events. For those without a pass to the official inauguration, it was the closest it came to the real deal. The ground was littered with the remains of makeshift breakfasts: hot chocolate cups and bagged sandwiches, hot dogs and pretzels. For the most loyal of Obama fans, a sleepless night had bled into the morning with little time for rest. Yet the wind burned faces of the audience, both young and old, showed little sign of fatigue.

To view the inauguration slideshow, click here.

Instead, a burning sense of pride and excited anticipation hummed through the audience as Obama took to the stage. The projector screen lagged behind the concurrent sound, so the appearance of the proceedings had a surreal aura, dubbed over like a foreign film. The audience was silent, unmoving, awestruck, watching as their soon-to-be leader repeated his oath. And then, before the video version of Obama had time to finish what the crowd had already heard, the audience erupted into explosive applause. The first speech Barack Obama gave as the 44th president was an eloquent one. The message was clear: America and the world at large faces real problems, we must stand together to overcome them. Supporters watched respectfully, cheering at key points and applauding voraciously throughout. However, as Elizabeth Alexander took the stage to read her inaugural poem, the audience was surprisingly less enthralled. For most, it seemed the official ceremony ushering in their new leader was all they came to see. And so, as the carefully chosen words of Alexander echoed in the background, the painfully slow exit march began. A sea of people would be the most illustrative way in which to describe the massive cold and happy crowd that left the Capitol as one united body following TuesdayâÄôs events. The ecstatic sale of Obama souvenirs and a three-hour snail paced exodus through a bottleneck route marked the final chapter in the lead up to ObamaâÄôs presidency.