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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's follow up now on the story of Ella Mae Johnson. She's the 105-year-old African-American woman from Cleveland who was determined to see the swearing in of President Obama. She was determined even after people suggested the weather would be too cold and the wait outside too long. NPR's Joseph Shapiro tells us how she did.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO: Ella Mae Johnson is an elegant woman. She dresses with impeccable style. She keeps her flowing silver hair just so. But for the inauguration she sacrificed all that, in good humor, to the greater task of staying warm. Johnson's nurse, Iris Williams, zipped her up in a bright blue sleeping bag. The puffy fabric covered Johnson from head to toe, with only her eyes and nose peeking out.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Once I get you sealed in, there's no turning back now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WILLIAMS: You can't move left or right, up or down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WILLIAMS: You're stuck.

SHAPIRO: At the Capitol, the nurse pushed Johnson in a wheelchair. In her sleeping bag, Johnson got plenty of attention. And when strangers found out how old she was, they stopped to congratulate her.

Unidentified Man #1: She just turned 105 a week ago.

Unidentified Man #2: Congratulations.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: Congratulations, Ella Mae. How are you doing in there?

Unidentified Man #4: Congratulations.

Ms. ELLA MAE JOHNSON: I'm fine. Now all I need is a rub on my nose.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WILLIAMS: OK. Hold on.

SHAPIRO: Johnson has been a witness to more than a century of African-American history. And when this historical moment was over, she talked about what it meant to be in the middle of such a friendly crowd.

Ms. JOHNSON: We were all there. We were there waiting. It didn't matter what my color was. It didn't matter what your color was. And I could not ask for anything better.

SHAPIRO: Ella Mae Johnson spent seven hours outside in the frigid weather. But she said she was too wrapped up and too happy to feel the cold. Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

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