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Brian Charles: Magic in D.C.

Washington Journal: the Inauguration

Posted: January 18, 2009 5:31 p.m.
Updated: January 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The sun sets on the festivities at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., officially kicking off the countdown to Tuesday's presidential inauguration.

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Editor's note: Eleventh in an exclusive series as Signal Staff Writer Brian Charles covers the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - There is something magical going on. Whether Barack Obama is at the core of the magic doesn't matter.|

The magic is here.

President-elect Barack Obama took the same train route to Washington for his inauguration that was taken by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 for his oath of office.

More than 30,000 people waited in frigid temperatures to see Obama during a scheduled stop in Baltimore.

"I saw 30,000 people waiting in 20-degree weather and not a foul word was spoken," said Saugus resident Tony Zinnanti, who traveled to the inauguration.

Zinnanti snapped pictures in the cold weather and marveled at the magic that swept through the crowd.

"People were sharing food. There was a loaf of bread going around that people were inching off," Zinnanti said.

The bread-sharing crowd communed with each other for more than seven hours, he said.

The cross-country trek led to another revelation for Zinnanti.

"I didn't realize how big this was for African Americans. This is a solemn pilgrimage for many African Americans," he said.

"It feels different in (Washington, D.C.)," said Yvette Rooks, a Maryland resident who plans to attend the inauguration.

Rooks spent Sunday walking Columbus Circle in Washington, D.C., and meeting many people who flocked to the capital for the inauguration.

"I met a woman in D.C. that has no place to stay and plans to sleep in Union Station," Rooks said. The woman traveled from Alabama to the inauguration, Rooks said.

"There is just a different feeling," she said.

Obama's name is on almost everything for sale in the city. Vendors hawked hats, pins, refrigerator magnets, Obama gospel C.D.s and rhinestone-decorated T-shirts along the streets.

The mix of Obama signage, large crowds and street vendors makes for a surreal carnival atmosphere in the place known for Senate confirmation hearings and C-SPAN.

There is another magical thing happening at the inauguration: a plethora of porta-potties has been distributed around the Mall.

Porta-potties on their own aren't magical, but these porta-potties are special because they are clean.

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