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Lakhs converge to witness Obama's inauguration

world Updated: Jan 21, 2009 10:04 IST
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Braving sub-zero temperature and patiently crossing the strict security barriers, hundreds of thousands of people on Tuesday converged at the National Mall in Washington before dawn, hours ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States.

An estimated two million people have thronged Washington to witness the momentous occasion, when an African-American would enter the White House, which itself was built by black slaves.

Old timers said rarely have they experienced such a mammoth cheering crowd gathered in Washington to attend a presidential inaugural.

In fact, long queues were seen outside the ticketing counter on metro stations, even before the windows were opened early morning.

To facilitate smooth flow of traffic, more trains were being run since the wee hours.

Roads in and around the Capitol Hill have been closed for traffic, except for emergency vehicles, so that only pedestrians can walk through them.

Local media reported hundreds of thousands of people had started arriving at the Mall at about 2 am. And by 6 in the morning had choked up all the entry points leading to the Mall – be it the metro rail or the security check points.

"I knew it was going to be crowded but I couldn't miss this," Adrienn Chu, 27, of the District's Columbia Heights neighborhood was quoted as saying by 'The Washington Times'.

"I sacrificed and came here. To me, this is very historic. I just wanted to be here," said Connie Grant of Birmingham, Alabama.