Security Is Tight, Spirits Are Bright In D.C. Officials in Washington, D.C., are making their final security and transportation preparations for Tuesday's inauguration. Tens of thousands of police and military personnel are already patrolling the streets. Despite the high-level security, much of the city feels like a huge block party.
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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.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. Tomorrow's inauguration could be the biggest gathering ever here in Washington. So today, security and transportation authorities were in high gear.

Tens of thousands of police and military personnel are already patrolling the streets. Metal walls and barricades are in place, controlling access to the U.S. Capitol and the inauguration parade route. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports that despite the high security, the city feels like one, huge, block party.

ANDREA SEABROOK: I'm standing in Union Station on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and it looks as if someone has opened a fire hose of people coming out of the Metro station, coming out of the train station, and swarming on to Capitol Hill, where there are just dozens and dozens of people hawking souvenirs of all different kinds - T-shirts, flags, everything.

(Soundbite of vendors selling souvenirs)

Unidentified Man: Shirts here, guys, inauguration shirts.

SEABROOK: You might not notice, but mixed in among the crowd are security officials of all kinds: police, Army, National Guard, air marshals. The Transportation Security Administration has deployed an untold number of what it calls VIPER teams. They specialize in terrorism prevention and response on trains, planes, ports - all modes of transportation.

But this crowd looks more exhilarated than wary. An escalator carries smile after smile up into the station. I hang my microphone over the side and yell out, where are you all coming from?

Unidentified Woman #1: Georgia.

Unidentified Woman #2: Texas.

Unidentified Man #2: Oklahoma City.

Unidentified Man #3: San Diego.

Unidentified Woman #3: New Jersey.

Unidentified Man #4: New Hampshire.

SEABROOK: Where are you coming from?

Unidentified Woman #4: North Dakota.

Unidentified Woman #5: Portland, Oregon.

Unidentified Woman #6: New York.

Unidentified Man #5: Louisiana.

Unidentified Man #6: Durham, North Carolina.

Unidentified Woman #7: Nebraska.

Unidentified Man: #7: Kansas.

SEABROOK: As far as transportation, so far so good. Metro is running smoothly. Roads are still open into the city. The traffic does get snarled down by the National Mall. Of course, the true test will come tomorrow.

Mr. MALCOLM WILEY (Special Agent and Spokesman, United States Secret Service): There will be security that you can see, and there will be security that you cannot see.

SEABROOK: Malcolm Wiley is a special agent with the Secret Service.

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

SEABROOK: The Secret Service is coordinating security for inauguration. No fewer than 58 different government agencies are working it. They've also brought in backup: cops and soldiers from all over the country, deputized to enforce D.C. laws. So far, the only people coming close to disturbing the peace are the California high school kids keeping warm by playing a game called Chop Suey.

Unidentified Group: Oh, Chop Suey, Chop Suey, Chop Suey, oh yeah, Chop Suey.

SEABROOK: While partiers gathered in the D.C. streets, the man of the hour spent today focused on the National Day of Service. At a local high school, he cheered on volunteering students.

President-Elect BARACK OBAMA: I can't do it by myself. Michelle can't do it by herself. Government can only do so much.

SEABROOK: On his last day as president-elect, Mr. Obama also visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, and helped paint a wall blue at a teenage homeless shelter. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.

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