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Ahead of Inauguration Ceremony, Anticipation And Memories In The Making

NPR icon by Julie Rovner
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Update 12:15 p.m. Among those congregating along the National Mall Monday, were a group of seniors from Detroit, who spoke with NPR's Sonari Glinton.

Minnie Rose tells Glinton: "We're a little too old to see the next black president. We'll be gone with the Lord."

Rose who would not give her age, but her friends hinted she's in her 80's, said she wasn't able to attend President Obama first inauguration, so it's important for her to be here and see history being made.

Others, like Carmela Gaines of Far Rockaway, Queens, N.Y., recalled how crowded it was during 2009, telling NPR's Brakkton Booker, that she was thankful to just be standing on the grass of the Mall this time around.

"We didn't see anything, we came by Amtrak. We got off at Union Station," Gaines said, describing the same event four years ago. "We were across the Capitol at the blue gate, but we had to listen to it on the radio."

Just months ago, Gaines and her mother were stuck in their New York apartment without water or electricity for two weeks after Superstorm Sandy. But they said they never doubted they would make it to D.C. for Obama's second inauguration.

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NPR's headquarters are several blocks from the Capitol and the National Mall, but a steady stream of inauguration activity began almost as soon as daylight broke Monday morning.

Since many of the streets are already blocked off, most of the activity was of the pedestrian variety.

Loretta Pittman of Philadelphia was taking her young daughter to the ceremony. It was both of their first time ever in the Nation's Capital "and we're very excited," she said.

Robert and Doris Johnson Brown were in from Milwaukee, Wis. "We just thought it would be a great thing to do...this will be the last time around," Robert Brown said.

But the ceremony itself won't be the first celebrating the couple have done this weekend.

"They attended the Illinois state ball Saturday night, which was really fabulous," Robert Brown said.

This morning they were on their way to the Gold section, said Doris Brown, courtesy of Rep. Gwen Moore and Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

"We're very proud of both of them," she said. "They work very hard."

And while the crowd is, by most estimates, considerably smaller than in 2009, that's not putting much of a crimp in the attempts at commerce.

Greg Stryker was in charge of the Pepsi promotion at the corner of 7th street and Massachusetts Ave. Northwest, where volunteers were handing out free cans of Pepsi and Pepsi Next.

"It's the perfect nexus of people and pedestrian traffic, and the festival atmosphere and the amount of people that come down for inauguration," he said.

Meanwhile, outside the Gallery Place Metro station, Jeremiah Ulmer was selling one of many Obama-related souvenirs.

"I'm selling inauguration ceremony tickets, from the first one and the second one," he said.

Actually, the tickets wouldn't get you into anything; they're commemorative only, on bright blue lanyards, with an "I heart Obama" button to hold them together.

But for $10, "you can't beat it," he said.

And how's business? "I don't know, I just came out," he replied. That's OK, the crowd should be around for a while.

Out on the Mall, the fact that President Obama is being ceremoniously sworn-in on the same day as Martin Luther King Day held a certain significance for some visitors.

Beverly Johnson, who traveled from Hopkinsville, Ky. said Obama's picking up where King left off.

"I feel like he wants equal opportunity for everyone," Johnson said, referring to President Obama. "It doesn't matter the color of your skin."

John Bennett, 71, who traveled from Fort Valley, Ga. said he's "overjoyed" to witness the Inauguration ceremonies.

"In my lifetime, at my age, I'll probably never see this again," Bennett said referring to the historic re-election of the nation's first black president.

He then quickly added, "I might be wrong."

NPR's Jeff Brady, Brakkton Booker, Sam Sanders and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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