Louisville Bus Convoy Arrives In Nation's Capital

Hundreds of thousands of people have been streaming into Washington to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. A caravan of four buses headed to Washington D.C. from Louisville, Kentucky.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Many of the people arriving in Washington began their trip in buses in their hometowns across the country. NPR's Ina Jaffe traveled in a caravan of four buses that set out from Louisville, Kentucky. We spoke with her earlier yesterday, and now she's back with this report on how it went.

INA JAFFE: Today will be a long day for the Louisville contingent. It will be cold in Washington and crowded on the Mall. And will come after another very long day.

Unidentified Man #1: (singing) When you board that big Greyhound Carry our luggage to D.C. town Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

JAFFE: At 3:00 Monday morning, about 200 travelers gathered outside the African-American coffee house that organized the trip. There was a brief send-off ceremony, a little music, a few prayers, followed by 14 hours on the road. No matter, Darlene Jones(ph) said there was never any question that she'd be here.

Ms. DARLENE JONES: The night that Obama won, we instantly said we're going to the inauguration, no matter what. Didn't know how we were going to get here, but we're going to be here.

JAFFE: She had to do it, she said, to honor family members who came before her.

Ms. JONES: Some of them were sharecroppers in Mississippi. They fought hard to climb up.

JAFFE: The buses drove through snow and high winds and arrived late in a hotel in Baltimore. As everyone lined up to register, Jana Shope(ph) explained that she'd canvassed for Mr. Obama, and now she had to be there for the final chapter of that story.

Ms. JANA SHOPE: If I see him on the big screen, I'm satisfied. And if I get a little bit of a glimpse of him, that'll be even better. But my best hope is to see him on the big screen. I hope to see him.

JAFFE: Nineteen-year-old Deke Lowery(ph) also views Barack Obama's inauguration as the culmination of a story, but one that started long before his time, with the civil rights pioneers who paved the way for this day.

Mr. DEKE LOWERY: Do I ride in a bus, or whatever, it kind of makes you feel like back in their generation they rode the bus for like Civil Rights and been fighting for this moment, you know, is was kind of sad that someone went here to see it and fought so hard for it. So you don't want to miss that, because then it's not giving them the honor they should have.

JAFFE: But some of those civil rights activists are still around. Sonny Wells(ph) began marching and protesting in Louisville in the 1960s.

Mr. SONNY WELLS: I had to be here. This is the history for me. It's something I can tell my grandkids and something I can tell everybody. I never dreamed this day would happen. But we made it. We made it.

JAFFE: Everyone we spoke to felt the weight of the past. But not one even tried to guess what they might feel when they actually witness Barack Obama taking the presidential oath of office. They just knew they would feel something great once the new president uttered the words, so help me God. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Baltimore.

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