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Inauguration Spectators Come To DC With Stories

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  • Inauguration 2009

    Inauguration 2009
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    Watch the NewsChannel 5 Network for coverage of the Inauguration Ceremony of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. more>>

WASHINGTON (AP) - The inauguration of Barack Obama has brought visitors from all over the world to the nation's capital. Here are some of their stories:

Riding a mostly empty Metrorail subway train into the capital from nearby Arlington, Va., before 5 a.m. Tuesday, Obama activist Akin Salawu of Brooklyn, N.Y., said his feelings were a bittersweet mix.

"This is the culmination of two years of work," said Salawu, 34, who helped the candidate as a community organizer and web producer. "We got on board when Obama was the little engine who could. He's like a child you've held onto. Now he's going out into the world."

"We're very proud of him, being African-American," said Salawu's mother, Norene Powell, 59, of Somerset, N.J. "It's a new benchmark for everybody."

On the same subway car was world history teacher Calvin Adams of Arlington, Va., who said he would have taken the day off to attend the inauguration even if schools in nearby Loudoun County, Va., where he teaches, had remained open.

"Eventually I'll teach American history," said Adams, 23. "I'll say, 'This is how it works because I've been there, I've seen it.'" - Alan Fram

Cleveland and Lynda Wesley, from Houston, were on the Mall as the sun rose.

"We grew up in segregated Houston," said Cleveland, 56, a retired electronics engineer. "Houston didn't desegregate until 1967. Our formative years were in segregation. This situation is so emotional it's basically an unreal experience."

Lynda, 57, a retired assistant principal said that when Obama announced his candidacy, her mom asked her, "Who is that?"

She answered: "Someone very bright. Why not him in the White House?"

The couple stayed with their son, who lives in the District, before the inauguration. In church Sunday, they sang, "We Shall Overcome."

"It was wonderful because we did overcome," Cleveland said. - Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

Omar Funchess' white pickup truck somehow got stuck in the crowd waiting for access to the Mall. So he took advantage of it.

Funchess climbed atop the truck bed and led the waiting crowd in various call and response cheers. He called out "Change!" and the crowd responded - after prompting - "We did it!"

Funchess, who dabbles in real estate in Charleston, S.C., said he felt the waiting crowd was restless so "it was my duty to just do something, just to amp the crowd up."

The coatless Funchess - it was in the truck, but the heat of the moment was enough for him - had been up for 30 straight hours.

"Man, I've probably got another 24 hours before I see some sleep," he said. - Seth Borenstein

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