Despite Cold, Crowds, Euphoria At Inauguration

They braved the cold and the huge lines at security checkpoints. They jammed into crowded Metro cars. They filled the National Mall all the way from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. And for hundreds of thousands of spectators at Barack Obama's inauguration, it was all worthwhile.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. NPR's Frank Langfitt followed the transportation situation today and spent most of the day at Washington's RFK Stadium. That's about 2 miles from the side of President Barack Obama's swearing in, and it's where more than a thousand buses parked. And Frank, what kind of day was it at RFK?

FRANK LANGFITT: Well, Robert it was a long one. It started at about 3 a.m. with those buses you just mentioned circling the parking lot in the dark. They were waiting to get in. And then, people - about over 50,000 people poured onto shuttle buses to make their way to the Mall. Now even before the event, some people began straggling back because they were just freezing. It was to cold for them. And then right after the speech, you know, the tide turned and people began pouring back up here and into RFK.

SIEGEL: Now you've also been gathering information on the general logistics of this Inauguration Day in Washington. Where were the trouble spots?

LANGFITT: Well, one was right in front of the Capitol grounds, around First Street and Constitution. That's where there were a lot of really good seats - good tickets and people, but people were stuck there for hours and many couldn't get in. I talked to Christine Hues(ph) - she's 35 years old and Meagan Bear(ph) - she's 17, a high school student. They're both from Ereskine(ph), New York. They had tickets from their congressman but they couldn't get into the area. And here's how Christine and Meagan described it.

Ms. MEAGAN BEAR (High School Student): We were there with, I'd say hundreds of thousands of other people and we moved probably almost a city block and then we were deadlocked.

LANGFITT: Okay. And where did you end up watching the show?

Ms. BEAR: At a McDonald's.

(Soundbite of laughing)

Ms. CHRISTINE HUES (Spectator): On a 14-inch fuzzy black and white TV.

Ms. BEAR: 1970 fuzzy black and white TV (laughing)

Ms. HUES: With about 500 other people.

SIEGEL: But that 14-inch black and white TV was in the nation's capital, Frank? There were other places where the pedestrian traffic moved smoothly?

LANGFITT: Much better. I think Memorial Bridge is a good example. That of course goes from the District in to Northern Virginia and it was shutdown to traffic. But our own Allison Aubrey was there and she said people were moving very smoothly. It looked like there were a lot of locals, knew where they were going, no jams ups at all.

SIEGEL: Now how did those buses do at RFK station? Did many of them get out of town quickly after the swearing in?

LANGFITT: No they didn't. You know, remember those school field trips we all used to go on. Well, this was like one with tens of thousands of people. And when people got back to RFK, instead of getting on the bus they went shopping. They went to see the vendors here - buy Barack Obama buttons, T-Shirts, air-fresheners and the bus drivers had to wait for them. I met a guy named Gary Gambel - he's 63, a bus driver from Connecticut - and he was waiting on a lot of people for his bus and I asked him how his drive home was looking and here's how he put it.

Mr. GARY GAMBEL (Bus Driver, Connecticut): Are you kidding me? We went straight up 95, Connecticut, Jersey turnpike and all of that stuff. So, that's where the trouble starts. You know, so it's not - it won't be pretty.

LANGFITT: How long do you think it's going to take you?

Mr. GAMBEL: At least 12 hours.

SIEGEL: Sounds like a very long night but after a very memorable night. NPR's Frank Langfitt at RFK Stadium. Thanks very much for talking with us again.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Robert.

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