US & World

KPCC reporters share observations of Inauguration

KPCC reporters Brian Watt and Shirley Jahad were spectators at today's Inauguration. KPCC's Nick Roman spoke with both of them about the day's highlights.

Nick Roman: The estimates numbered the crowd at the Obama Inauguration at just shy of one-and-a-half million people. That's about 200,000 more spectators than the Inauguration of Lyndon Johnson 44 years ago. With a crowd that big, staking out a good spot to see the ceremony meant taking Washington, DC's Metrorail. KPCC's Shirley Jahad headed to the farthest station from the Capitol building.

Shirley Jahad: And we got there early in the morning. The train was supposed open, start at 4:00 and we got there close to that time. There was already a line down the block to get in the parking lot, and blocks and blocks of people to get into the train station just to get to the turnstile.

Roman: KPCC's Brian Watt was luckier... or so he thought. He attended the Inauguration as a Congressional guest. But to get to his seat on the west side of the Capitol, he had to clear security first.

Brian Watt: That was probably a 25-minute wait as everybody who went through those metal detectors had to do basically the same thing you do when you have to get on a plane. They had to take off all your jackets, anything metal, anything that would trigger the metal detector, and just go through a screening.

Roman: But his seat gave him a view of the National Mall... and the giant crowd that stretched for more than a mile.

Shirley Jahad found a spot a few hundred yards from the Capitol. She says the crowd there swirled with every sort of person you can think of, including high school students from Los Angeles.

Jahad: Just a minute ago, I was standing next to a big group of high schoolers, all wearing orange caps and lime-green T-shirts that said, "Get on the bus! LA to DC 2009." They all, from various L.A.-area high schools, rode in on a bus for the last three days. And they're here for a full-bodied live civics lesson.

Roman: When some famous person's image popped up on one of the many giant video screens along the Mall, the crowd would cheer. Brian Watt says that crowd was nearly silent, though, for much of the Inauguration ceremony.

Watt: What I didn't expect was exactly how quiet it could actually get at an event like this. For example: when people applaud. Because it's so cold, everybody's wearing gloves. So the applause is muted. It's that sort of muted rumble of gloves hitting one another, not that sort of crazy "crack-crack-crack" of the actual hands hitting one another. There were moments when the whole place got really, really quiet. And it was interesting to think of an entire city and entire National Mall full of people getting quiet.

Roman: Before and after the ceremony, it was a National Mall full of people buying souvenirs. Shirley Jahad says all kinds of stuff turned up for sale.

Jahad: The most common thing I've seen is perhaps the Obama trademark everywhere: Obama hats, Obama scarves, Obama buttons, Obama banners everywhere. This is Obamatown.

Roman: So what's the best souvenir in Obamatown? Brian Watt has his keepsake... actually, a handful of 'em.

Watt: I've been clutching at my Metro fare cards because I really, I think the Metro fare cards are kind of emblematic. It's a very, very simple keepsake. I've taken the Metro a lot, and every Metro fare card has a picture of Barack Obama on it, smiling.

Roman: A train ticket with the face of the new president who says he wants to move America forward... a memorable image from Inauguration Day.