WASHINGTON — Hundreds of Oklahomans — willing to endure huge crowds, cold weather and tight security — are heading here to see history made Tuesday when the first black president of the United States takes the oath of office.
"It’s a culmination of all the hope I have for my children and my grandchildren,” said Candace Richerson of Yukon last week as she prepared for the trip.
Eighth-grader Martena Hill of Oklahoma City, whose family was planning to be in Washington all weekend and then see the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, said, "It’s history. Not a lot of people get to go. I’m very lucky.”
Actually, it’s probably going to seem like a whole lot of people to Hill, 14.
Organizers are expecting anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million people, stretching nearly two miles from the U.S. Capitol steps, where Obama will be sworn in, to the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the National Mall, and along the parade route that ends at the White House.
"The crowd estimate is kind of daunting,” said Betty McElderry, a longtime Democratic Party official from Purcell, who is making the trip.
Unprecedented security and crowd-control measures are being taken — bridges linking Virginia to the District of Columbia are being shut down, forcing people on that side of the Potomac River to take the subway or walk.
Police from several states have been recruited to help, and 10,000 National Guard members will be on hand.
A reception and a Western ball
Oklahoma’s senators and U.S. House members gave away nearly 1,800 tickets to the swearing-in to people from the state, who swamped their offices with requests.
Rep. Dan Boren, the Oklahoma State Society in Washington and other sponsors, including some American Indian tribes, are hosting a reception tonight at the National Museum of the American Indian on the mall for Oklahomans coming to the inauguration and those in the area.
What was envisioned as a relatively small event grew to more than 500 by week’s end.
"President-elect Obama certainly can draw a crowd,” said Ryan Jackson, a top aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and the head of the Oklahoma society in Washington.
Oklahomans have made a variety of arrangements for accommodations — from hotels to staying with friends to paying residents to use their homes.
Jeremy Hendricks, who worked for Boren’s campaign and is helping to coordinate the reception for Oklahomans, said he has heard stories of people paying as much as $1,000 a night. Jackson said he hadn’t heard any complaints about rip-offs.
Some of the many activities are open to the public, and others are by invitation. Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder are among those scheduled to perform at the Lincoln Memorial today.