Saturday, 2:15 PM
Vignettes: 'I feel very, obviously, overwrought'
Inaugural vignettes from around Boston.
Just as Barack Obama raised his right hand to take the oath of office, a boarding call for Flight 816 to Baltimore shattered the silence in Logan Airport's Terminal C. Tears in his eyes, Albert Cremin rose reluctantly. Walking backward toward the gate, he never removed his gaze from the television.
". . . so help me God," Obama intoned in Washington, and then Chief Justice John Roberts extended a hand. "Congratulations, Mr. President."
"I feel very, obviously, overwrought," said Cremin, who works in theater arts and deals antiques, as an Air Tran employee waited for him to board. "It's just -- I drove yesterday to put my nephew on a plane for Afghanistan. I'm very hopeful that the new administration will change things for the better for our country and the world."
A similar reluctance to depart had befallen passengers one gate over, at C40, a few moments earlier. Flyers on the 11:45 a.m. to Fort Myers lingered as long as they could, leaving with the arrival of the Lincoln Bible, on which Obama took the oath. Four airport workers remained when they were gone, beaming up at the TV. At a nearby newsstand, Obama graced a bank of magazine covers, alternately grinning and looking pensive.
The Marine Band played. At C41, two dozen travelers stared at the overhead TV, transfixed by the pageantry and the moment. Nobody spoke, save for a whisper. Nobody faced away from the screen.
A young family paused at the gate's railing. "Honey, look," Debbie Kaye said, positioning her 4-year-old cq son, Noah cq, and gesturing toward the TV, which carried the inauguration. "This is so important. We're about to have a new president."
Kaye, her husband, and two children were headed back to Maryland after a trip here to visit family. "I can't believe that I booked this flight for this time," she said, as they began walking toward their gate, C42. They returned quickly; their gate had no TV.
Aretha Franklin appeared, performing a soaring rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee." A woman in a fleece pullover snapped her laptop shut and turned her full attention to the TV, head in hand.
Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill began to play classical music, arranged by John Williams. A pilot stopped near the entrance to the gate. In the stillness of the terminal, he put down his coffee. Fixing his eyes on the TV, he removed his gold-laureled cap.
-- Eric Moskowitz
(Michele McDonald/Globe Staff)
Martin Altine (left) and Peaches Taylor-Franklyn both shed tears.
Dorchester: ''Obama's president. I'm just going to go for it.'
Tears streamed down Martine Altine's face as she watched Obama take the oath from her perch in a chair at Muriel's Natural Hair Studio in Dorchester.
She was overwhelmed by the progress, large and small, that had made him president, and that had also put her in this chair on this day, in a boxy little salon with bright yellow walls that recalled the sun-bleached homelands of the Caribbean immigrants inside it.
Behind her, stylist Peaches Taylor-Franklyn tugged and braided her hair into long, black pleats for the first time. All her life she had used chemicals to straighten it, to look more professional, more like, to be honest, the mostly white co-workers around her. She wanted a natural style, but worried what they would think at the social service agency where she is an assistant director.
Now that Obama was elected, everything seemed new. She plans to lose weight, go to the gym, and finally, embrace her own natural hairstyle, the face in the mirror.
"It took me personally a long time to accept this is my hair," Altine said with a smile. "You know what? I don't care. Obama's president. I'm just going to go for it."
A Haitian immigrant, Altine came here at age 11 speaking only French. As a French-speaking foreigner, she felt distant from white and black people. She had a different history from black people: She had known black presidents in Haiti, seen black men on the currency in their pockets. But she also felt different from white people, and noticed how some paused when they saw locks or braids.
Altine paused and turned toward Taylor-Franklyn, who was born here, the child of immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago. She voted for the first time at age 28. Now Altine is thinking about voting someday as well.
"I think I'm going to become a US citizen," Altine told Taylor-Franklyn, who smiled. "Now I'm inspired to be part of this nation, a part of this country."
-- Maria Sacchetti
'Dudley Square: 'I still can’t believe it.'
Steven Lee, 28, yelled “Obama” and threw his hands up in the air shortly after noon as he was walking on Warren Street in Dudley Square. Lee, wearing earphones, had been listening to the inauguration ceremonies through a radio in his pocket. His actions startled several passersby, but they soon realized why he had reacted.
Barros had parked his van on Zeigler Street to listen to the inauguration on his radio. He had turned the volume up to maximum, and Obama’s words filled his van.
Dudley Square was business as usual. There weren’t any large gatherings of people to celebrate the inauguration. Only a few businesses were closed.
Inside the Dunkin’ Donuts at the MBTA Station, a jubilant, unidentified woman yelled, “Yeah Obama,” but then immediately said, “This is great, but he’s not paying my tuition.”
As Obama finished the oath of office, the manager of the shop told several people they’d have to leave because they were loitering.
“This is America, anything is possible,” Lee said. “I never thought this would happen, and I’m sure my parents never thought they’d see this day.”
Albert Barros, 54, a carpenter from Roslindale, said: “I still can’t believe it. Maybe this will sink in in a week or a month.”
----- Brian Ballou
Madison Park High School: 'It's history. It's Obama'
(Mark Wilson Globe Staff)
At Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury, half a dozen juniors, officers of their class, were putting the finishing touches on the lower cafeteria, where hundreds of students were gathering to watch the inauguration on a large screen.
The officers, all girls, had decorated the walls with blue and red paper stars. Red, white, and blue balloons hung from the ceiling in a plastic bag, waiting to be released.
"It's history. It's Obama," said 16-year-old Ashlee Smith. "We are proud to say we are black."
"That's right. High-five!" said fellow junior Lyneka Hubbert, the class's 16-year-old vice president, who grinned broadly as she and Smith slapped hands.
The girls said they never expected to see the first black person elected to office in their lifetimes. Now, they said, anything seems possible.
"People can't say, 'Because I'm black, I can't do this,' " said 16-year-old Makeila Layne, who wore a purple shirt with Obama's face printed on it. "Our president is black, so there is no excuse."
As students filed into the room, many chattered noisily. Others laughed, and girls who could not find a seat plopped onto their friends' laps.
The headmaster, Charles E. McAfee, strove to keep them quiet, booming out orders of silence and looking sternly at those who would not listen.
"For the first time in your lives, you are going to be quiet," he said in a deep, loud voice.
They hushed for a few moments, but when Obama walked to the podium to take the oath of office, they erupted into cheers, hugging each other and bouncing up and down in excitement.
During the speech, many were transfixed, their eyes glued to the screen.
When Obama told the nation it was time to "dust ourselves off" and remake America, the room erupted into cheers.
Then, the party began. A DJ spun hip-hop music and rapped Obama's name over and over into a microphone as the teenagers danced and waved their hands in the air. A small crowd gathered around a boy who was krumping. Girls in T-shirts that read "Hope" and had Obama's face emblazoned on it posed for pictures next to a large cutout of the new president.
Seventeen-year-old Cindy Surin, one of the class officers, looked around the room.
"The world just might change," she said. Surin then corrected herself.
"It can change," she said. "It will change." she said.
Soldiers' Home: 'Everyone has high hopes'
(Scott LaPierre / Globe Staff)
Mixed expectations filled the acrid air of the smokers’ lounge at Soldiers' Home in Chelsea, where about 450 veterans stay each night.
John Mattia, 55, was among about a dozen vets staring at two TVs in the lounge.
“Everyone has high hopes," said Mattia, who served as a boatswain’s mate on the USS Constellation aircraft carrier in Vietnam. “He has a big task.”
Strand Theatre: 'I feel like a different person than I used to be'
At the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, where Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other elected officials viewed the ceremony, hundreds screamed in delight when Obama's visage filled the movie screen.
Mary Henshaw, a 92-year-old African-American from Roxbury, was dressed for an inaugural ball, wearing her finest blouse and a long dark skirt. As Obama took the presidential oath, rows of people held hands in solidarity, and Henshaw smiled. She would never be the same, she said.
"I feel like a different person than I used to be," she said.
Then, red, white, and blue balloons came flying from the rafters, and the crowd hugged, waved flags, cried, and praised the Lord.
"Beautiful, beautiful," Henshaw said. "I won't hardly sleep tonight."
Joan Austin, a 65-year-old black woman from Jamaica Plain, struggled to put her feelings into words.
"Now my grandchildren have a better chance at ..." Here she paused, adding, "Life."
Cambridge: 'It’s bigger than the Super Bowl'
As the clock inched toward noon, two flat-screen televisions behind a cash register at Best Buy in Cambridge slowly drew in dozens of shoppers, tourists, and workers from nearby offices, as if pulled by the magnetic images of the Obama family.
Cornelius Jones, who works across the street at IBM, was the first to arrive.
Junior Fernandes, a store employee, had spent the morning rewiring the two televisions to tune into the inauguration, at Jones’ request.
“It’s bigger than the Super Bowl,” said Fernandes, 21. “I don’t think we would go out of our way to put this on if it was a regular inauguration.”
Jones had begun watching the inaugural festivities on his computer at work but like others gathered here, walked to the electronics store to share the historic experience with strangers.
Jones was in elementary school in Pittsburgh when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and remembers sitting in his family’s living room watching the news images on their black and white TV while his mother sobbed.
“To see this day come is a facet of what Dr. King lived for – not just the occupation of the Oval Office, but equality in the hearts of every American,” said the 50-year-old from Dorchester who parents made voting a family tradition. “It’s a big step toward the American ideal being achieved. I’m just amazed and grateful to see it happen in my lifetime.”
As Obama took the oath of office, the crowd of more than 50, including a student from Jamaica and businessmen and women from China, remained hushed, eyes glued to the screens. Applause broke out when he finished. Some took photos of themselves and the televisions.
Elizabeth DaCosta, who is visiting her daughter, a Babson College student, for five days from Jamaica, said she snapped a photo of her daughter and a friend to remember this exact moment.
“It’s historic. You might never see this happening again,” DaCosta said.
Pang Bina, here on a business trip from Zunyi, China, said she caught a glimpse of Obama and Joseph Biden on Sunday as they made their way from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial. She was overwhelmed by the crowds surrounding the motorcade.
“I’ve never seen so many people in my life,” Bina said. “We were so lucky. We’ve never even seen [Chinese president] Hu Jintao.”
As Obama finished his speech, Jones put his hand to his heart and patted his chest. “Wow, powerful,” he said to a friend standing next to him. “Is your heart racing? Whoo!”
--- Tracy Jan