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Security Is Tight, Spirits Are Bright In D.C.

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Security Is Tight, Spirits Are Bright In D.C.

Security Is Tight, Spirits Are Bright In D.C.

Security Is Tight, Spirits Are Bright In D.C.

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99561271/99546240" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

National Guard troops perform security duty on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House Monday. In other neighborhoods, such as at the train depot on Capitol Hill, there was a sense of celebration. Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images hide caption

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Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

National Guard troops perform security duty on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House Monday. In other neighborhoods, such as at the train depot on Capitol Hill, there was a sense of celebration.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Throngs of people visited the National Mall near the Capitol Building Monday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Throngs of people visited the National Mall near the Capitol Building Monday.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The inauguration of Barack Obama could prompt the largest public gathering Washington, D.C., has ever seen. So a day ahead of the big event, security and transportation authorities mobilized.

Tens of thousands of police and military personnel are already patrolling the streets. Metal walls and barricades are in place, controlling access to the Capitol and the inauguration parade route.

But despite the high-level security, much of the city felt like one huge block party.

In Union Station, the train depot on Capitol Hill, it looked as though someone had opened a fire hose of people. They came out of the Metro station, the train station and swarmed onto Capitol Hill, where there were dozens and dozens of people hawking souvenirs of all different kinds, T-shirts, flags ... just about everything.

Mixed in among the crowd were security officials of all kinds. Police, Army, National Guard — even air marshals.

The Transportation Security Administration has deployed an untold number of what it calls VIPER teams, featuring specialists in terrorism prevention and response. They're trained to work on trains, planes, at ports and aboard all modes of transportation.

Monday's crowd looked more exhilarated than wary. An escalator carried smile after smile up into Union Station ... coming in from Georgia, Nebraska, Kansas and on and on.

As far as transportation goes, so far so good. The Metro system of commuter trains and buses ran smoothly Monday afternoon and roads were still open into the city. Traffic did get snarled down by the National Mall.

But the true test will come Tuesday.

"There will be security you that you can see and security that you can't see," says Malcolm Wiley, a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

"We want for this event to be secure, but at the same time we don't want for security to be the story," Wiley says. "The democratic process here is the story and the celebration is the story."

The Secret Service is coordinating security for inauguration. No fewer than 58 different government agencies are working the event. They've also brought in backup, including cops and soldiers from all over the country, all deputized to enforce Washington, D.C. laws.