Inauguration Day in LA: Where Were You?

Thousands of Southern California residents gathered in downtown Los Angeles and other venues today to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama, with some brought to tears by the event and others saying they just wanted to be part of the historic occasion -- even if they couldn't be in Washington.

Scroll to the bottom of this page to tell us where you were at the moment Obama took the oath of office.

The inauguration ceremony was shown on large video screens at the L.A. Live entertainment complex adjacent to Staples Center, and police estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 people were on hand to watch.

"Oh my God -- I'm having a heart attack, right now," said a woman from Chicago moments after the oath of office was delivered. "This is real, this is very real. Nothing was going to stop this moment. This was supposed to be."

Police Chief William Bratton, who attended President Bill Clinton's inauguration, was in Los Angeles this time. City Councilwoman Jan Perry also attended the events. She is serving as acting mayor, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council members Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration.

Speaking from Washington, Garcetti said "it was a very cold day but it felt like an extremely sunny day for America."

Garcetti is in Washington to meet with federal leaders to discuss issues facing Los Angeles and other major cities.

"One of the reasons I supported (Obama) was his clear agenda for our urban centers ... this new White House Office of Urban Policy will be an unprecedented commitment to America's cities," Garcetti told City News Service.

Garcetti is also taking over the leadership of the Democratic Municipal Officials, which represents 50,000 locally elected politicians. The councilman and his peers will attend the Democratic National Committee's meeting Wednesday to provide "a local voice in Democratic politicians and a Democratic voice in our urban initiatives," he said.

Public viewing parties also were at All Saints Church in Pasadena; Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson; First AME Church in the West Adams district; and the Foshay Learning Complex in South Los Angeles. AME members watched the event in Washington on a big-screen television.

Click here (and then scroll down) to submit a photo showing where you were when Obama took the oath.

Occidental College Claims Part of Historic Day

Occidental College is a place Barack Obama left behind. But the school's most famous alumnus was celebrated Tuesday like a favorite son as hundreds of cheering students crammed a campus theater to watch the nation's 44th president take the oath of office.

In Washington, the Capitol steps were in the grip of a frigid winter day. At Occidental, students in commemorative T-shirts snapped photos with a life-sized photograph of Obama under a warm morning sun. A banner overhead said, "President Obama '83," his class at the college he left after two years.

Inside the theater, they stood up and cheered when Obama appeared on an oversized TV screen displaying the Washington ceremony. Talk of change was everywhere, along with a sense of awe that one of their own had traveled so far from the leafy, hillside campus.

"I'm glad that he moved on to greater things. But we claim a part of him," said Eric Newhall, a graduate who now teaches English and comparative literature at the school. Years ago on campus, Newhall played pickup basketball with Obama, who was known for his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement.

"The greatest contribution Occidental College made is to teach him that his future did not lie in basketball," Newhall said with a smile.

Even if Obama talks about the small school infrequently "we are proud of him," said senior Caitlin Anderson, 21. "There's been a lot of anger over the last eight years. Everyone is so excited for the possibility of change."

Nothing on the campus about 10 miles from downtown commemorates Obama's two years here as student in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The dormitory room he occupied decades ago in Haines Hall is now empty. And though he spoke in Los Angeles as a candidate, he never visited his old campus during the campaign.

Obama has described his time at Occidental as a period of political and intellectual awakening. He later transferred to Columbia University, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1983. He has said it was while at Occidental he began following national debates about poverty and health care and "began to notice a world beyond myself."

Alex Marshall, 21, a theater major from Dallas, said he met Obama two years ago at a fundraiser that his father helped organize. During the brief meeting they talked about Occidental and he was surprised when Obama remembered school cheers.

"He loved everything about this place," Marshall said. But "he wanted to move on."

It's said that Obama gave his first public speech at Occidental on Feb. 18, 1981, when he urged college trustees to divest from racially segregated South Africa. As a black student, he stood out on a campus that at the time was less diverse than today. He also stopped using the nickname Barry while at Occidental, returning to his given name Barack.

The college of 1,800 students also claims Jack Kemp, the former New York congressman and 1996 vice presidential candidate, among its former students.

Sidney Matthews, an 18-year-old freshman from Oakland, Calif., has a mixed race heritage, like Obama. Like many of the students, she said she longed for an end to war and a return of American prestige overseas.

"I hope Obama can turn around the way other people look at us," she said.

Like Obama a generation before him, Marshall said his eyes have been opened to a larger world while at Occidental.

"I wasn't interested in politics before him," Marshall said. "When he first started running, I didn't know if a black man could become president."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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