Inauguration Preparation Part of Sightseeing and History

Shantella Y. Sherman | 1/15/2009, 6:10 a.m.

The hammering and drilling can be heard blocks away, blending almost harmoniously with the sounds of simultaneous construction along the K Street corridor. A steady hustle of tourists move toward the sounds, now almost deafening in front of the White House. Camera lenses normally focused on the President€s lair, have shifted to the enormous stands in front of it, with hundreds of contractors, and local and federal government officials, checking, double-checking and securing the structures.
When Inez and Morris Dougherty, of Hammond, La. arrived in the city they wanted their first stop to be the White House and Lafayette Square Park. The couple was hoping to get a pre-Inauguration glimpse of both the preparations and the President-elect, staying at the Hay Adams Hotel nearby.

€We are so excited to be in the middle of all of this stuff going on. From one area to the next, all you see is people working hard to make sure that the First Black President gets into office in style,€ Inez said. Morris is less impressed with the hammering and chiseling, and more concerned with the number of law enforcement overseeing the various projects.

€I have never seen so many police officers in different uniforms in my life. They all look like they mean business too,€ he said. €I guess making sure that these platforms and stands are secure is part of security too.€

The workers themselves seem as pleased to be working in a time of recession, as they are eager to be a part of the set-up projects. For some teams of U.S. Park Service employees on maintenance and beautification detail, a different type of satisfaction has developed in helping to set up for a Black president.

€We will be here on Inauguration Day as well, so we will get to see all of the work we€ve done in the background. It does give you a sense of pride that you are being a part of history,€ said Ronald Price, U.S. Park Service.

Unlike previous years being on Inauguration duty, Price said there were a lot of workers who asked to work this time around, wanting to share in the events, up close and personal.

€A change is gonna come and we are happy to be out here, and at the Navy Memorial, the John Marshall Park, and really all of the different parks in the area. I think there will be a lot more people than anyone is expecting, so we really want to make things look nice for them,€ Price said.

Keith Brown, also on beautification detail with the U.S. Park Service, said working the Inauguration route was a chance to feel a part of an historic event, knowing he had a hand in it.

€There is a whole lot left to do, but we are working non-stop to beautify the area and tend to plants,€ Brown said. €The idea is to make sure that everything is maintained and looking nice for visitors and in the backgrounds of all of those pictures that people will be taking €" I mean, this is the most important city in the world.€

Brown also said the many Black men employed by the U.S. Park Service and as contractors during the Inauguration have felt a kind of lift from doing something for one of their own.

€As a Black man, it does make me feel proud to do this €" it€s my job and everything, but when you know that you are helping to make things look nice so that another Black man, running the country, can take this parade route and get sworn in, it means a lot more,€ Brown said.