Lead Stories
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Dharapak

Warm welcome on a cold day

Inauguration | Despite frigid temperatures, thousands gathered in Baltimore to greet President-elect Barack Obama, as he made his way to Washington

BALTIMORE- Though Saturday began with thermometers dipping down to 1 degree Fahrenheit and the local health department issuing warnings about the dangers of the extreme cold, the frigid temperature didn't keep a crowd of enthusiastic people from warmly welcoming President-elect Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and Jill Biden to the city's main plaza, on their final public stop on their symbolic train trip to Washington, D.C.

The whistle-stop tour, reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln's ride on the rails to Washington to take office in 1861, began in Philadelphia and included three stops along the way, where the president-elect spoke to thousands of well-wishers.

In Baltimore, the largest gathering along the route, some attendees spent the entire afternoon shivering in the cold so they could be there when the train rolled in. However, with about 30,000 people pressed into War Memorial Plaza, the collective body heat made the time waiting more bearable. As the clock ticked slowly toward Obama's arrival time, organizers led everyone in jumping jacks to help keep the blood flowing. Helicopters circled overhead, and the Secret Service took to the roofs around the square. Children bundled in multiple layers of clothing had difficulty bending or putting their arms by their sides.

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

But people were feeling pretty good.

"I've never seen anything like this in Baltimore," said local resident Andrea Katkow.

"Ol' Bushy boy put us in the wilderness. America, we're back! We all want to do something now," said D.J. Gilton who came all the way from San Francisco. "We're all out here in this cold, freezing our butts off."

Many said they waited for hours so they could "see history." Some of the overflow crowd, however, had to settle for watching the event on large TV screens in the city's Inner Harbor.

Before the Obamas and Bidens stepped out to greet the crowd, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley spoke, causing a few impatient attendees to shout, "Wrap it up!"

When the president-elect finally did appear, over three hours after the square opened, the crowd went wild.

"I love you!" someone shouted.

"I love you back," said Obama, as he delivered his third speech of the day.

"Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast," he said. "What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own hearts-from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry-an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels."

"And as I prepare to leave for Washington on a trip that you made possible, know that I will not be traveling alone. I will be taking you with me. . . . Americans from every corner of this country, whose hopes and heartaches were the core of our cause; whose dreams and struggles have become my own."

Despite the infectious euphoria, some in the crowd were sober-minded about what lies ahead.

"I see him as a politician who's going to disappoint us," said Baltimorean Jen Moran. "Historically this is wonderful. We have to be a little more realistic about what he'll be able to do."

"There will be frustrations and disappointments," Obama himself said. "I will make mistakes."

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Troubling ties

    Under the Clinton State Department, influence from big money…