- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

BALTIMORE | Walter Glover, his wife and two small children bundled up and drove three hours from their home in New Kent County, Va., to join the thousands of people facing frigid weather to see President-elect Barack Obama’s whistle-stop speech here.

“I wanted my kids to experience history in the making,” said Mr. Glover, 44, a high school custodian and a black man who was wearing a blue Obama cap jutting out of his fur-trimmed parka hood. “As far as the eye can see, it’s probably the best thing we’ve got going to unite everyone.”

Mr. Obama was retracing part of President Lincoln’s 1861 inaugural train trip to Washington, beginning in Philadelphia and ending at Union Station in Washington, blocks away from the Capitol.

An estimated 40,000 people stood in line in Baltimore, some arriving as early as 8:30 a.m., to catch a glimpse of the man who will be the country’s first black president. The line snaked its way along at least 20 city blocks to get through security for Mr. Obama’s appearance at War Memorial Plaza in front of City Hall.

Despite the long wait and the cold, the crowd was in high spirits, with people dancing and waving the U.S. flag. The word on everyone’s lips was “history.”

“I can see that in the United States a man with a similar racial background can succeed,” said Hubert Clay, 40, a transportation engineer from Baltimore County, whose father is black and mother is Japanese.

He left his sons, 7 and 4, at home because of the cold, but said it’s an important day for them.

“I’d like to someday share this with them and say there’s no limit to what they can accomplish. With hard work, the United States is still the land of opportunity,” he said.

Eleanor Welkner, 49, said she traveled with her 22-year-old daughter from their home in rural Maryland about an hour north of Baltimore.

“What a great weekend. Obama Saturday, and the Ravens Sunday,” she said, referring to Baltimore’s pro football team playing in the NFL conference championship game this weekend.

“I don’t even see him as African-American. I see him as American. He has views I like. I just like everything he’s doing,” said Mrs. Welkner, a Republican who switched to independent during the campaign.

A large segment of the crowd booed Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, as he took the podium — an echo of unpopular budget cuts forced by the economic crisis that will also shape Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Many of the people in the crowd said they were also going to the inaugural events in Washington on Tuesday.

The crowd in Baltimore dwarfed those at the two other stops on the train trip in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del., but those who turned out at those stops also said they were witnesses to history.

“I didn’t vote for him, but I’ve really come on board,” said Steve Lang of Hopewell, N.J., while awaiting Mr. Obama’s arrival at the Philadelphia train station.

“I’ve really come on board as I’ve watched our economic crisis unfold,” he said. “We just need a whole new, fresh perspective.”

In Wilmington, a throng of several thousand stood cheering as Mr. Obama stopped to pick up Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. for the journey to Washington. Some spectators climbed small trees to get a better view, and one person held a sign that said, “Yes we did.”

In Baltimore, people were hawking a potpourri of Obama memorabilia, including $5 Obama buttons, $5 Obama hats, $10 T-shirts, $5 car magnets, $5 laminated calendars and $5 Obama foam fingers flashing the peace sign. Framed Obama photographs were being sold for $10.

“I’m not purchasing anything at all. It’s not what this is about,” said Craig Jernigan, 35, a program director at the Baltimore City Department of Juvenile Justice, with his 12-year-old son Craig Jr. in tow. “I’m here to witness history and to show my son a different side of the political system - just how folks can come together from different races, colors, for one purpose.”

• Christina Bellantoni in Philadelphia and Jon Ward aboard the 2009 inaugural train contributed to this article.


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