EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 21, 2009

Inauguration notebook

Staff reports

Get your Obama souvenirs

It will take the new president time to turn around the economy, but Washington, D.C., street vendors had their own economic stimulus package thanks to yesterday's inauguration.

It was Obama-everything.

You could get a presidential bobblehead doll, puppet, winter hat, coat, T-shirt, coin, postcard and even Obama condoms, said Linda Harvey, a Methuen attorney who went to D.C. with her two daughters, Maxine, 13, and Talia, 9.

"The merchandising is just outrageous," she said. "You'd never know we're in an economic crisis."

The vendors bustled with sales, many from cold visitors needing a hat, shirt or warming packs for their hands and feet. The family stayed warm yesterday by dressing in many layers underneath winter coats, scarves and their brand-new Obama hats.

So much for tickets

Andover native Danielle Johnson, 19, had scored precious purple tickets to the inauguration, but never ended up getting in the gates.

Like hundreds of others, despite getting to the gates early, Johnson was not let into U.S. Capitol grounds because too many tickets were distributed and security officials were overwhelmed by a surge of people at the entry gates.

But she said not many people cared.

"It was still so exciting," said Johnson, a freshman at George Washington University. "We waited and waited to get in, and then someone told us he was sworn in. ... A street vendor who had a car played it on the radio so we could all listen."

She could still hear the rifle salute and cheers.

"There were tears. People have waited their entire lives to see something like this happen," she said.

Even Republicans liked the speech

He's a Republican who campaigned for Republican presidential nominee John McCain, but Lawrence Mayor Michael Sullivan admits he was impressed by Barack Obama's inaugural speech.

He took two hours off from work to watch with staff members at his corner office in City Hall.

"It was a great speech because he really spoke on things he campaigned on, which echoed his platform," Sullivan said. "He's giving Americans hope and that's a good sign."

Sullivan had just returned from a mayors conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, where he stayed a block away from the White House.

"When I tell you there's a positive feeling in Washington, that represents the feeling felt in the country, to me it was a good thing to see," Sullivan said. "For a short period of time, they took time off from doom, gloom and the war and there was a positive feeling for the future."

Space limitation did not stop college students

At Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, more than 300 people crammed into the Bentley Library conference room at noontime to watch the inauguration.

The college's Contemporary Affairs Club had planned to host a viewing of the event on a large screen in a science building room but an Internet glitch forced the club into the library, along with all the other students and college staff.

No one seemed to notice, however, once Obama took the stage, with several people crying and others praying and cheering.

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