WASHINGTON – Hundreds of thousands congregated on the National Mall on Monday, many bundled in gloves and scarves against the cold. Some stopped in front of street vendors to buy buttons with President Obama’s face on them, inaugural coffee mugs or wool hats with Obama spelled in glass beads.
There were cheers when the crowd saw the presidential limousine on the Jumbotron as it arrived at the Capitol.
Some took a detour away from the stage on the West Front of the Capitol where Obama would give his second inaugural address, and went to see the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as the nation also celebrated the birthday of the slain civil rights leader.
Cherryl Gilbert, 51, brought her two sons, Marrkus, 18, and Rodney, 20, from Griffin, Ga., to see Obama speak. But first, she wanted them to pay their respects to King, she said.
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"I wanted the children to see what Dr. King had done," said Gilbert, who brought her family from Georgia on a 20-hour bus ride to spend the day in Washington, D.C.
About 300 people milled around the memorial as the inauguration proceedings got under way. People read quotes inscribed in granite and took family photos in front of King’s stern figure.
Chiana Grant, 21, drove all night Sunday night and into Monday morning to see Obama give his second inaugural address. She piled into a friend's Volkswagen Passat with three others in Charleston, S.C., determined to make the seven-hour drive and be in Washington in time for the ceremony.
On Monday morning, Grant had wrapped a pink blanket around her waist over a gray suit as she walked from the car parked across the Potomac in Arlington, Va., to find a spot on the Mall.
She wasn't old enough to vote for Obama in the 2008 election and casting her vote for Obama in November was a big deal, she said.
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"It meant a lot to myself and my culture," said Grant, who is studying information systems at University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartensburg, S.C. "I really wanted to be here," she said.
Andrea Kozek, 37, who works in online marketing, traveled to Washington from Milwaukee.
The nation's capital holds a special place for Kozek – her parents met in front of the White House during a civil rights protest in the mid-1960s.
"I really felt like coming this time," said Kozek, an Obama supporter, as she rode to the National Mall about 9:30 a.m. Monday. She was wearing a thick black jacket, with a leopard-print scarf and fingerless gloves.
"There's something really significant about him being sworn in on Martin Luther King Jr. Day," she said.
Staff writers Wesley Lowery and Jim Puzzanghera contributed to this report.
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