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Crowds Begin Converging On Washington, D.C.


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. We are glad you are listening on this Monday morning, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Inauguration Day. We have a team spreading out, getting a feel for how things are going in different parts of Washington, D.C. as hundreds of thousands of people descend on the capital to be part of President Obama's second Inauguration. Standing by over at the Martin Luther King Memorial is our own David Greene, MORNING EDITION's David Greene. Hi.


MONTAGNE: So it's just about dawn, getting a little light over there, I think. You're headed out, and you got out there very early. First of all, did you have any difficulty moving around the city, and even getting there?

GREENE: Not a lot, but probably that was because we came out so early, before the sky even began to brighten. The streets were mostly empty, although you could see, you know, at different corners, there were people already setting up their booths to sell t-shirts and buttons.

And the first person we ran into as we approached the Martin Luther King Memorial was a woman who would not give her name. She just said I'm Button Lady. And I said, you know, well, can I have your name? I'd love to interview you. She said, yeah. It's Button Lady. I'm a lawyer in Virginia, but on Inauguration Day, I am Button Lady. And she tried to push some buttons on us. But as the sky started to brighten and the morning is calm, we're told it's going to start getting warmer, and people have been starting to stream to the King Memorial.

We just spoke to a busload of people from Lynchburg, Virginia. They drove all night to get up here, and they said their first stop without a doubt was to come visit MLK just to start this day for them.

MONTAGNE: And that's MORNING EDITION's David Greene, and we'll be talking to you throughout the program, David. But let's turn to NPR's Jeff Brady. He's standing by on the National Mall. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So a lot of streets around the Mall have been shut down since yesterday. Did that impact you this morning? What are people saying? How - you know, how do they say they're getting there?

BRADY: Well, you know, it certainly did affect us. NPR is not that far from where we are. We just got here on the Mall, and it would have been a nice, short walk. But the parade route is in between the Mall and NPR, so we had to walk around the parade route, about a two-mile walk this morning. It was bracing, to say the least, and we encountered a lot of barricades along the way. You see a lot of police cars with their lights flashing, military vehicles blocking the streets.

Pretty much all the streets in any direction for blocks around the National Mall are closed off. And at first, there were just a few people kind of walking in, and then as we got closer, the crowds got bigger. Now, we just got down here on the Mall, and you can see the area's starting to fill up as the sun comes up.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, you hear that people are going to take bicycles. They're going to - you know, people are aware of the traffic. What are people telling you about how they got there, and how far did they come?

BRADY: Oh, you know, it's clear that this is definitely a national event. I'm from Philadelphia. I came here to help cover this for NPR. I've talked with people back in Pennsylvania who were - who have been practicing for months to perform at events here during the Inauguration. People are coming in to help with security. And you can just tell the buzz around town. It's very exciting. It was not a great place to get a good night's sleep last night, because there was a lot of activity outside of the hotel.

But this is a place that's just abuzz. Everybody's saying this was probably going to be a smaller Inauguration than four years ago, maybe not as many people showing up. But there's still a lot of excitement, and it's clearly a national event for people that are coming in from all over.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. And are they talking about what's happening later? Because there are so many things to do between the parade and the actual Inauguration, but then after that, there are all kinds of events.

BRADY: Oh yeah. There are balls all over the city. There are going to be parties in different places. This is an event that a lot of people are celebrating. You know, when we first started out at about 6:00 o'clock this morning, walking towards the Mall, a little subdued. Everybody's sort of sipping on their coffee. But once you get here and the music's already pumping and there are videos showing pictures of the election, and people are very excited.

I haven't heard a lot of whooping and hollering yet, but I think maybe as the sun comes up, it gets a little bit warmer, people are going to start moving a little bit.

MONTAGNE: That's Jeff Brady, NPR's Jeff Brady at the National Mall. And then I'm going to turn back to David Greene, who's over at the Martin Luther King Memorial. And David, just some last thoughts. We've got about 30 seconds now, before we go to another story.

GREENE: Yeah, you know, Renee, one question I think a lot of people are going to be asking when they come out here is: How does this compare to four years ago? And I was speaking to one woman from Virginia, 71 years old. She watched the first Inauguration on television. She's here for this one. She said, to her, this one is more important, because President Obama has been tested.

And, you know, that, to her, is her thought today, that she wants to see him in a moment of difficulty, in a moment of testing for his presidency, and that's why she's out here today.

MONTAGNE: David, thanks, and again we'll be talking to you, David Greene, and all our NPR reports, journalists, later in the day, throughout the day. Bye-bye.

GREENE: Bye-bye, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.