Crowds Find A Place On Washington's Mall

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People are streaming into Washington D.C. to be a part of history as Barack Obama takes the oath of office.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And the sun's not up yet here in Washington, D.C. Snow flurries are possible later today. The temperature is expected to be about 30, but it feels a lot colder than that right now. Still, people are already at the Mall, and that included NPR's Ari Shapiro. Good morning, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Where exactly are you? What are you seeing?

SHAPIRO: We are on the east end of the Mall, close to the Capitol. Illuminated in the pre-dawn darkness, with people just flooding as close to the Capitol as the can get. And I have to tell you, walking down here this morning, it was a mass migration. Thousands and thousands of people filing the sidewalks, filling the streets. We walked through a highway underpass that had been closed off to traffic, and you could just see the human bodies stretching out as far as you could see.

And I thought to myself as I was walking through there, this is an image that you usually see in times of tragedy. When there's been a national - a natural disaster, or a protest for some injustice. And here, these thousands of people walking on this highway were celebrating something joyous that everybody was so exited to be here for. So it was a really unique moment.

MONTAGNE: We have heard crowd estimates over the last weeks, ranging from a million to several times that many. What are the latest expectations?

SHAPIRO: You know, I haven't seen the latest numbers, although, as you say, we have heard anywhere from one to five million. Just moving through the city over the course of the weekend, it feels completely different. It does not feel like the Washington, D.C. that I've called home. There are people everywhere you go with enthusiasm, and vendors on every sidewalk. We - somebody selling Barack Obama air fresheners for $2. That's just one end of the swag spectrum that you see here all over the course of the weekend, particularly here on the Mall now this morning.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, how is the crush of people there as per, you know, for officials? I mean, are people - is there any concern at all, do you feel?

SHAPIRO: No. There are huge masses of people, but they're all enthusiastic and joyous and friendly and polite. And as we were trying to make our way through the crowds, you know, with our media pass, people kindly stepped aside. The officials seem to be in good spirits. So so far, the - everything feels very positive.

MONTAGNE: All right, thanks very much. We'll be catching up with you later. NPR's Ari Shapiro on the Mall here in Washington, D.C.

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