N.C. residents cherish being a part of presidential history

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 22, 2013 

— Triangle residents who attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration said it felt great to stand in the nation’s capital in a euphoric crowd and feel a part of history.

“I have two grandchildren, and I just can’t wait to tell them I witnessed this inauguration,” said Barbara Sutton of Raleigh, just after the ceremony composed of prayers, blessings, “America the Beautiful” sung by North Carolina’s James Taylor and the president’s second inaugural address.

“I liked that he stayed with the message of hope and the message of change, and that working together we will come together as a nation,” Sutton said. “And I really just liked seeing the diversity that was apparent in the crowds. Everybody just seemed to be in one accord. There was a common spirit of camaraderie out there. It was jubilation.”

Sutton received a ticket she had requested from her congressman, Rep. David Price, for standing room in the “gold section,” the part of the National Mall close to the west steps of the Capitol where the ceremony took place. Behind her, the rest of the mall, stretching for blocks to the west, was filled with crowds who needed no tickets and watched the ceremony on viewing screens.

The Rev. Charles Tyner, pastor of White Oak Baptist Church in Apex, was there with other community leaders and NAACP members. He also attended Obama’s first inauguration.

“It was just as inspiring today as it was four years ago, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. The Baptist pastor said he was struck most by the president’s stress on equal opportunity, education, the health care and retirement safety net for senior citizens, and a safer environment.

He also liked Obama’s unifying message on race, and said it was reflected in the supporters listening to hear him.

“The crowd had everybody,” he said. “Everybody was included. There was hope and joy and feeling good about him being president.”

Delois Prince of Durham, an instructional assistant at Spring Valley Elementary School, agreed there was “an overall tune of unity and patriotism.”

Prince was with Sutton, her friend, and standing in the crowd on the National Mall she unexpectedly ran into another friend, visiting from Florida. “What are the chances?”

Wendell Taylor of Raleigh, a purchasing analyst at Caterpillar, said he drove up and arranged to meet a friend from Cleveland. He attended the inauguration ceremony, but found the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue too crowded. He took the Metro train to a motel outside the city, got his car and headed back home.

Despite the crowds waiting for the parade that started Monday afternoon, Taylor said everything flowed quite well, and the congestion overall wasn’t bad. What struck him, though, were the street vendors.

“Every three steps there was somebody else selling something,” he said. He bought a refrigerator magnet and a shot glass.

Machelle Sanders of Wake Forest made the trip with her husband and twin daughters, aged 20. They attended four years ago as well and had tickets for a spot a little closer this time.

“I thought the speech was very much focused on values, and hopefully on values we all have,” Sanders said. “And I thought the president made some courageous comments as well,” she added, citing his calls for health care for all and equality for everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

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