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January 26, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 8

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    Students, faculty, staff brave crowd, cold for exultant moment on the Mall

    By Sara Jerome

    Fourth-year in the College

      
    Photo by Dan Dry

    The scene at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 20, during President Barack Obamaís inaugural speech as the 44th President
      

    University of Chicago students, faculty, staff, and alumni pushed into the heart of Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for the inauguration of Barack Obama, shivering and cheering and exulting in pockets amid the throngs on the National Mall, as the former Senior Lecturer in the Law School was sworn in as President.

    “I’ve never seen a crowd so excited,” said third-year Elizabeth Scoggin, who, having interned in the office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) this summer, scored one of the most exclusive tickets available.

    Chicagoans watched from different vantage points near the Capitol. Some, like Scoggin and President Zimmer, had orange-level clearance, placing them at the west front of the Capitol.

    “It was pretty incredible,” Scoggin said. “People were in tears everywhere, particularly the older members of the crowd who really thought they’d never see something like this happen.”

    Several administrators with silver-level clearance watched from a crowd in a gated area on the National Mall, where they viewed the ceremony on a large screen amid a shivering crowd that cheered and booed depending on who appeared on screen.

    Still others, including students who trekked to D.C. without tickets just to be part of the events, squeezed in with the throngs of thousands that surrounded the Capitol.

    Matt Kennedy, fourth-year and Student Government President, watched from the area east of the capital’s reflecting pool. To help friends at home live vicariously through his pilgrimage—including a Greyhound bus trip to D.C.—he provided frequent updates on Twitter, a social networking site.

    “And Obama’s president,” Kennedy wrote after the ceremony. “Nearly froze out there, but it was worth it. The crowds are huge!”
    To secure a good viewing spot during the swearing-in, many administrators had risen early to try to beat the rush to the Capitol. But it seemed that whole crowds of people simply hadn’t slept the night before the inauguration.

    At least in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel, where many University community members stayed on the eve of the ceremony, the hustle and bustle barely dipped overnight as it grew late and then early.

    Guests washed in and out of the hotel’s restaurants all night, waiting to head to the National Mall. They packed into the lobby gift shop in the early hours of the morning to load up on granola bars and conduct small talk, as though they were always up at daybreak discussing politics with strangers.

    If not for the dark skies that lingered as administrators gathered at 6:30 a.m., armed with hand-warmer inserts and maps of the Mall, dawn on Inauguration Day could well have been mistaken for rush hour.

    Making it to the Mall meant pushing through crowds, navigating brocaded streets, and for thousands, walking through the 3rd Street Tunnel, usually a major throughway for cars.

    Heading over between 6 and 7 a.m., Kennedy found he was hardly the only one to get an early start.

    “Walking to inauguration!” he wrote his friends at home. “So many people walking already.”

    After the swearing-in, University members fought through the endless crowds pouring off the Mall to gather at a “warming center” on 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where they watched the celebration parade from a window-front view and followed the events on CNN.


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