January 17th, 2009
04:20 PM ET
5 years ago

Malveaux: They have come from as far as Liberia

WASHINGTON, AT UNION STATION (CNN) - They have come here from as far as Liberia. Eager and anxious Obama fans have descended on Washington.

They are impatient to get a glimpse of the man who in just a few days will become president. While they wait, we are their biggest curiosity. There are camera lights and a table, and a TV monitor is tuned to CNN's coverage. They huddle around us, and the question is always, "When is he arriving?" As the last stop on his whistle-stop tour here at Union Station, we've had a chance to hear the stories from those who have traveled from Seattle, Miami, Atlanta and frigid Cleveland.

One man wearing a black down coat is covered in Obama buttons that blink in red lights. A proud father from Chicago hands me an 8×10 poster of Obama that he says his son, an artist, drew, of Obama's face, that also includes the flag of Kenya, Illinois and the United States.

Even though we're indoors, it's cold here, as we are sitting by a train station exit. Everyone is bundled up, from snow gear to elaborate fur. An Au Bon Pain store farther inside the station is selling specially made Obama sugar cookies, with an Obama face and a flag. There is a dish of crumpled sample pieces to entice customers. At another popular corner here, people are lined up to take their picture at a life-size cardboard placard of Obama.

Though there will be no arrival sighting here, as on the other stops on the tour, or even a chance to get a glimpse of Obama coming off the train, there is a contagious buzz about how the next 48 hours will unfold. Red, white and blue balloons decorate the entrances of several restaurants as Union Station will host a Latino inaugural gala tomorrow. A red rope line cordons off a small stage.

Outside, there are a handful of protesters wearing black shirts with white lettering that say "Arrest Bush." They say President Bush is guilty of war crimes and are calling for him to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. It's a controversy Obama has already addressed, pledging to use his executive power next week to shut down the facility.

But inside Union Station, the mood is light, even if most of the out-of-towners are shivering. Unfortunately, they'll have to wait for tomorrow to get a glimpse of the new first family when official events kick off here in Washington.

– CNN White House Producer Jamie Crawford contributed to this report

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