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Witnessing history with stars

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POSTED: February 2, 2009 11:10 a.m.
Photo by Lewis Levine/

Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett pose for a photograph with a woman at President Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20.

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This first person account of Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration was delayed when I got caught up in the crowd of an estimated 2 million people trying to leave Washington, D.C., at the same time. Thanks to the overtaxed metro system, it took me nearly six hours to make the 18-minute trip back to Arlington, Va., where I was staying.
As thousands of people braved freezing temperatures to see the historic event, lines wrapped around office buildings and members of congress were faced with the grim task of turning away constituents who traveled hundreds of miles to watch history unfold. An estimated 250,000 lucky ones held onto their tickets –– myself included. I was actually more worried about losing my ticket, which I secured at the Senate press office, than I was about losing my wallet.
I got up at around 4 a.m. Tuesday to beat the crowds expected to flood the city. I found a seat on the metro and exited the train at Capital South station.
After visiting Rep. Jack Kingston’s office to warm up, I made my way to the basement of the Rayburn Building where the instructions on my ticket directed me.
I stood in line with dozens of media correspondents from around the world until the gate opened at 8 a.m. One by one, we went through the check point where we were patted down and searched.
I was shown to my seat by a military usher and was immediately dazzled by the view
I could easily see the front of the capital where Obama was sworn in. I also did a little stargazing, catching glimpses of Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Lee Curtis and Angela Bassett.
The hours flew by and before I knew it, the ceremony began at about 11:30 a.m. I sat in awe listening to Aretha Franklin and a quartet of classical musicians led by the famed cellist Yo Yo Ma.
The main event began at around noon. Obama took the oath and a 21-gun salute followed  as a roar rose from the crowd. President Obama’s inaugural address really seemed to strike a chord with audience members.
Soon it was time to leave, but not before I had my picture taken with Angela Bassett. I also spent a few minutes interviewing Jessie Jackson, who appeared overcome with joy. He told me it was a proud day in America, but said there was a lot of work to be done to bridge the racial divide.
 

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