WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's capital came to life well before dawn Tuesday, as out-of-towners and area residents alike overwhelmed mass transit and filled city streets to witness the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama.
Energized by the historic moment, tens of thousands of people turned this city's orderly grid of streets into a festive party scene. Ready to endure below-freezing temperatures, they streamed up from subway stations and thronged past parked buses, emergency vehicles and street vendors, bound for Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall for the inauguration.
"This is the culmination of two years of work," said Obama activist Akin Salawu, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who helped the candidate as a community organizer and Web producer. "We got on board when Obama was the little engine who could. He's like a child you've held onto. Now he's going out into the world."
By 4 a.m., lines of riders formed in suburban parking lots for the Metro transit system, which opened early and put on extra trains for the expected rush. Many parking lots filled up and had to be closed.
Streets around the Capitol quickly filled with people, and security checkpoints were mobbed. The cold registered at 21 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m.
Warming tents and other facilities on the Mall were late opening because traffic and crowds delayed staffers from reaching them. Ticket holders approaching the Inaugural site on Capitol Hill awaited security sweeps in a line estimated at thousands.
Connie Grant of Birmingham, Alabama, said she got up at 3:30 a.m. after coming to Washington with a group. Three hours later she was still on 7th street waiting for police to clear the way into the Mall.
She said the wait didn't matter. "I sacrificed and came here. To me, this is very historic. I just wanted to be here."