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Thousands Gather for Historic Inaugural Opening Ceremony

  • Catherin Cannnon

With the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama less than two days away, Washington, D.C. is bustling with excitement. On Sunday, tens-of-thousands of people attended the opening inauguration ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall. While the ceremony included famous musicians and Hollywood stars, for those in the crowd, the highlight of the afternoon was the chance to hear the president-elect.

They waited in the cold for hours. Thousand gathered on the National Mall, starting early Sunday morning to see the all-star concert and next president of the United States.

Despite the frigid temperatures, it was hard for people of all ages to contain their excitement for the man who will be the nation's first African-American president.

Jamie Felton from Reno, Nevada spoke with tears in his eyes.

"It's history making, history making. A once in a lifetime opportunity, to be a part of it, just to be here. I don't know how anybody could miss it," he said. "Growing up in the 1960's, seeing the promise of [civil rights leader] Martin Luther King, actually coming to pass right now. We are actually taking those steps, actually seeing it happen. As a 56-year old man, it is a dream come true; it's fascinating."

Pamela Bridges agreed that she also had to be a part of the moment. She traveled across the United States from Seattle, Washington.

"This is one of the most historic moments of my life, and I'm sure of most people's lives, and it's just an occasion that I had to be here to experience," she said. "And when I go back home, I don't think I can describe it, you just had to be here."

Even Washington, D.C. residents like Teoma Taylor said they didn't mind the huge crowd.

"It's really just a mark in history and I just wanted to be in the atmosphere, so that's why I'm down here, amongst all the people," said Taylor.

The concert, called "We Are One," was intended to be a celebration of American unity. But for many in the crowd, it was a political celebration as well.

Christopher Winnyk from Rockville, Maryland was thrilled to be there.

"I'm really excited about the people of this country being able to have the courage to vote for somebody not just because of their race or heritage, but also because of their viewpoints - looking at us being more of a partner in the world, in addition to being a leader," he said.

Despite the Hollywood stars and musical performances, there was little debate as to the highlight of Sunday afternoon.

"Seeing the President [-elect] come on out there, of course," said one man.

"Barack Obama speaking at the end, for all America," said another. "Actually, for everyone in the world."

"The words of President Obama, just encouraging us all to be a part of this amazing transformation of the United States," said one woman

"I think the highlight was Barack's speech. Again, he raised the bar - calling us to service - and I truly enjoyed that," another woman said.

"Mr. Obama! I mean, I loved everybody else, but he is the man! That's why we came," one woman said.

Many people in the crowd said the concert was just the beginning of their inauguration celebration. Perhaps as many as two-million people plan to be on the National Mall again on Tuesday as Barack Obama becomes the nation's 44th president