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Locals cheer 'indescribable' moment

NORCROSS - People stood and clapped, as they watched Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office. Some cheered. Katrina Carter wept.

"This was for my father," Carter said, thinking of the man who grew up in the segregated South as she watched the inauguration of America's first black president.

The single mother also had her 4-year-old daughter Kayla on her mind. "She can dare to dream the impossible," Carter said, overcome by the moment. "There are no limits."

More than 200 community members crowded into Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday to celebrate Obama's inauguration.

The women wore pearls to honor the new first lady, the men sported Obama T-shirts, and by the end, everyone waved flags.

"It's kind of indescribable" said Norcross Councilman Craig Newton, a deacon at the church. "To African-Americans, it's a day of pride, of accomplishment. To America, this day represents a day of change from old ways of thinking to a new paradigm, a paradigm of inclusion and expecting the best of everyone, no matter their race."

More than 100 Parkview High School advanced placement students watched the ceremony from the National Mall, standing among a crowd of millions.

Regina Loveridge, who teaches U.S. history and comparative government classes, said the students were in good spirits, despite the cold.

"It's unbelievable. I expected us to be crowded, but we were really like sardines," said the teacher who has led trips to the past five inaugurations.

Loveridge said she was struck by the kindness in the crowd, from the woman who passed out Obama buttons to the students to the people who quieted a group who started to boo outgoing President Bush.

"They were thrilled to get to see it," Loveridge said. "They realize this is something they'll be able to tell their children."

Ovella Jackson's oldest sister went to Washington on Tuesday, but the rest of the six girls were at Hopewell, the church their family helped begin.

"I'm so excited I want to cry," she said, showing off the Obama hoodie she and her sisters bought before the election ended. The women drew so much attention they decided to order more and sell the jackets and other wares.

Jackson said she couldn't sleep Monday night because of the excitement of the inauguration.

She was too young to participate in the civil rights marches, but she believes Obama's election will help blacks gain respect.

"I don't think it'll hurt," she said. "He's going to be scrutinized to the nth degree. That's the only thing about being black in America."

Mary Higgins, a Lawrenceville woman who clasped her hands and rocked with anticipation as she waited for the ceremony to begin, said all the hardships of the civil rights movements were worth the struggle.

"I am overwhelmed," she said, fighting back tears. "The biggest (lesson) is, when you are patient, humble and wait, it'll come ... It was all worth it. Back then, we didn't know."

Remembering the times when she visited the South and scared her husband by using the restroom marked for whites, Doris Salley said she had always hoped she would live to see the day a black man became president. The 74-year-old Norcross woman handed out buttons to the crowd, along with 70-year-old Betty Jo Holden, both nicknamed "Mother."

"I'll forever remember where I am today," Holden said, also recounting when she watched Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from in front of the Lincoln Memorial 46 years ago.

Although she had to work on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday, Lori Tynes took a day off work Tuesday to celebrate the fulfillment of King's dream.

"I felt it would be disrespectful for everyone who worked for civil rights," to miss the event, the Snellville woman said. "I didn't want to miss one opportunity."

Tynes said Obama's inauguration is just another step in the movement toward equality.

"It's an awesome, awesome day for America. It's a significant change in everyone's life," she said. "We've come a long way, but there is still a lot to do. It's not just a starting point. It's kind of the starting of the icing on the cake. We haven't quite cut it yet."

Just a youngster when King and other leaders crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge in her hometown of Selma, Ala., Juanita Marzette grew up with tales of the struggles for civil rights.

Tuesday, she wanted to impart some of that onto her sons. So instead of going to school, they went to the church to watch history in the making.

"We couldn't go to Washington, but (the children) get to be a part of something," she said. "I don't put Barack Obama on a pedestal or anything, but it's a special moment. I know he has a lot of challenges ahead of him."

Marzette's 8-year-old Emanuel, snapping pictures of his mom and brother, thought he would look back on the day. "Maybe there will be more black presidents, and I will remember Barack."