US & World

Crowd on National Mall awaits inaugural speech

KPCC's Shirley Jahad is on the National Mall and has been talking with people who staked out positions early this morning. Shirley spoke with Morning Edition host Steve Julian about what things looked like from her vantage point.

Shirley Jahad: I am at the fourth JumboTron back, strategically placed in this completely frigid day in the Washington Mall, perched right here between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, with a gorgeous view of this gorgeous Capitol.

I'm actually standing next to this little mini-sea of orange knit caps, and it is a group of young people from Pasadena and Los Angeles that got on a bus and came, three days, here from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to be witness.

Steve Julian: How did you find them given the crowd? (laughs)

Jahad: (laughs) Well, I've been talking to a lot of people, and this group had, as I said, these orange caps, so if you happen to see them in the crowd, if you see some orange specks, you'll know those are your brothers and sisters from Pasadena and Los Angeles.

And I talked to some folks from Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Leadership Academy, some young people from that school in New York. There's a lot of people from Chicago who feel like they have bragging rights, and are wearing there Hyde Park Obama caps.

And, cute little girls. One family with six little girls, ages 3 to 8. They're on the ground playing with their Barbies, and they have knit, American flag knit caps on, trying to stay warm. So there's a lot of different kinds of people out here, anticipating the moment.

Julian: Shirley, is there a theme that runs through, or common thread, that you're hearing from all these people you're talking with?

Jahad: The themes are several. One, wanting to be part of history. The mother of those six little blonde girls said, she said they may not really realize what they're attending, and where they are right now, but years from now, I want to be able, I want them to be able to say they were here. So they're going to take photos and have that as a remembrance.

The organizer of the busload of high school kids from the Southland says he wants them to get a sense of enfranchisement that he feels like they may not have had in the past, and this is an opportunity for that.

You know, they got here yesterday after three days on a bus. They went to the Smithsonian, they went to Howard University, and now they're huddled together trying to stay warm here, getting more and more excited as the minutes go by.

Julian: You're familiar with Chicago winters. How does this one compare?

Jahad: (laughs) Well, the blood thins quick, and this is not suitable for an L.A. lifestyle at all, but the occasion trumps the climate.

Julian: Shirley, thanks so much.

Jahad: Thank you, Steve.