'MLK is smiling today'

Standing on the steps of Constitution Hall, holding a sign reading, "MLK is smiling today" was Medina Thiam, 30, who came all the way from Guinea for the historic event.

She is not an American but was holding an American flag.

"It's for the world," she said of the day.

People descended on the Mall outfitted like they were on an expedition to Kathmandu.

When they arrived, a few sat down, as if on a winter picnic.

Charlotte Durante, 64, from Delray Beach, Fla., stepped across the soft ground of the Mall with a walker. She remembers being in Montgomery, Ala., in 1965 when civil rights marchers made it from Selma to Montgomery.

"This walker is nothing compared to what people went through in the civil rights era," Durante said. "I grew up in Alabama –- segregated classrooms, segregated bathrooms. We even had to use the back door to go into some businesses.

"I was part of the movement to work toward this day. I am just in awe at the people of all races here."

-- Richard Simon, Carla Hall

8:20 a.m. Cell phone networks overwhelmed

People in the crowd at the Mall reported having problems making cell phone calls -- though text messages were apparently still working.

--- Matea Gold

88:16 a.m. A colorful cornucopia of wares

On Washington's G Street downtown, vendors set up a colorful cornucopia of tents, grills and generators to hawk their wares in the closed-off street.

Ribs and hot dogs sizzled on the grill while stacks of buns waited for takers. Obama T-shirts, buttons and commemorative calendars decorated the newly created market area.

A few blocks away at 7th and E, vendor Lenny Mack stood by his two-wheeled shopping cart crammed with Obama goods, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled tight over a stocking cap. He's got flags, pins, lanyards, buttons, ballcaps "and frozen feet," said a laughing Mack, 49, a chef at Providence College.

Lanyards--at $10 apiece--are a bestseller. Mack's sold 500 since driving down from Providence on Friday. He has shrink-wrapped and stored 25 more as a memento and possible investment for his 19-month-old.

Business was slow in the early morning hours, but Mack predicted a surge in sales.

"After he's sworn in, when he gives his speech, that's when it'll pick up," said Mack.

--- Jill Zuckman, Andy Zajac

8:14 Early bird gets a prime spot

Janice Moreland, 52, of Las Vegas, was quite possibly the most prepared woman in the nation's capital.

While the rest of the world was absorbed in the the moment as Barack Obama was declared the next president of the United States on election night, Moreland had booked five nights at a hotel in Arlington, Va., by 10:15 p.m., emailed her senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, for a ticket to the swearing-in, and was sizing up airlines.

This morning, she was in an Arlington Metro station, having spent Monday in a full-scale dry run for the Big Day: She took the Metro to her appointed stop, made her way to the Capitol reflecting pool where she has a ticket to stand and took pictures for a possible before-and-after montage.

Nothing was going to mess this up. After all, out of 240,000 requests to Reid's office, her name was one of 50 ''pulled out of a hat.'' It suggested some sort of divine providence, she said.

The one ironic kink in her plan was that by 6 p.m. Monday night, her feet were killing her.

"I think I might have made a mistake. I wore myself out. I need a hot bath and some relaxation," she said, pausing to wonder if there was such a thing as being too prepared.

Nah, she concluded.

-- Faye Fiore

8:05 a.m. Oscar winner among celebs in D.C. crowd

"I'm happy to be here, and I'm celebrating. And I'm cold," said Denzel Washington, who was sitting amid a swarm of people trying to talk to him, just a few feet in front of the podium where the president-elect will be sworn in.

Most of the other 150 or so prime seats near the actor were still empty.

--Dawn Turner Trice

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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