- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The estimated crowd of 2 million people to see the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama began arriving at about 2 a.m. and began streaming through the checkpoints when they opened at 6 a.m.

“I knew it was going to be crowded but I couldn’t miss this,” said Adrienn Chu, 27, of the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.

Mrs. Chu was among the millions who began making their way downtown in the predawn chill. The temperature at 6 a.m. was about 20 degrees.

Connie Grant of Birmingham, Ala., said she got up at 3:30 a.m. Three hours later she was still on Seventh Street Northwest waiting for police to clear the way onto the Mall.

She said the wait didn’t matter. “I sacrificed and came here. To me, this is very historic. I just wanted to be here.”

The estimated 2 million people who attended the event, according to federal authorities, resulted in an unprecedented security effort, including more than 30,000 police and military personnel.

The attendance topped the 1.2 million people who were at Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 inauguration, the largest crowd the National Park Service has on record.

By 7 a.m., much of the Mall was filled with people and police opened the checkpoint for spots along the Inaugural parade route, ending the long lines that had formed.

At least five suburban parking lots for the region’s subway system — the second largest in the country — were filled by 5 a.m.

Metro officials reported about 733,982 riders had used the system by about 3 p.m. on the way to break the ridership record. The agency’s ridership record of 854,638 was set in July 2008.

“We’re prepared; we’re braced,” said agency spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

At the District’s L’enfant Plaza Metro station about 1,000 riders — many of them evidently new to the city’s subway system — waited to exit and were having trouble getting through the unfamiliar turnstiles. And, there was standing room only on some suburban Virginia lines.

Most of the city’s downtown is closed to motorists, as are bridges crossing the Potomac River from Virginia.

City and local planners have consistently warned visitors that they could expect extensive transportation delays.

“This is the culmination of two years of work,” said Obama activist Akin Salawu, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y., 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.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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