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Packed Capitol crowd awaits inauguration



Published: Tue, January 20, 2009 @ 10:50 a.m.

See Four Days in History

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Braving frigid temperatures, an exuberant crowd of hundreds of thousands packed the National Mall on Tuesday to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as America's first black president. He grasps the reins of power in a high-noon ceremony amid grave economic worries and high expectations.

It was the first change of administrations since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Crowds filled the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol for a glimpse of the proceedings and, in the words of many, simply "to be here." Washington's subway system was jammed and two downtown stations were closed when a woman was struck by a subway train.

Two years after beginning his improbable quest as a little-known, first-term Illinois senator with a foreign-sounding name, Obama moves into the Oval Office as the nation's fourth youngest president, at 47, and the first African-American, a barrier-breaking achievement believed impossible by generations of minorities.

Around the world, Obama's election electrified millions with the hope that America will be more embracing, more open to change.

The dawn of the new Democratic era - with Obama allies in charge of both houses of Congress - ends eight years of Republican control of the White House by George W. Bush. He leaves Washington as one of the nation's most unpopular and divisive presidents, the architect of two unfinished wars and the man in charge at a time of economic calamity that swept away many Americans' jobs, savings and homes.


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