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VRE carries crowds to date with history page 2
VRE train carries inauguration-bound passengers into the heart of Washington

 VRE conductor Melvin Johnson Jr. (right) talks with a passenger aboard the 5:15 a.m. train from Fredericksburg on its way to Washington for yesterday's inauguration.
REBECCA SELL/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 1/21/2009

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One of the passengers got a city police officer to ask the conductor to hold the train.

"Grandma's coming, and she's got the tickets!" a kid fretted out loud.

Several slow minutes later, Grandma, whom Hedelt described as "not a spring chicken," came into view.

"We're trying to wait, but come on!" the conductor shouted from the platform.

Grandma hustled. And she made it.

"It was great--they literally held the train," Hedelt said. "There's no sense in somebody missing a piece of history for a couple of extra minutes on the platform."

Fredericksburg-area residents were scattered on the train among out-of-town groups that had heard about VRE on the Internet.

Teresa Pinyon, 44, of Sugarland, Texas, drove 25 hours with a friend to spend the night in a Fredericksburg hotel before taking VRE to Washington.

Pinyon volunteered for Obama's campaign in Texas, going door to door with candidate information.

"It was like a closing for me," Pinyon said of the inauguration. " It's like the final part of completing the circle."

Maureen and Harry Blair of Greensboro, N.C., had tickets for the standing-room-only area on the Capitol grounds. They spent the night in Fredericksburg so they could take VRE.

"It's the only inauguration we've ever been to, and we're glad it's this one," said Harry Blair. "This is the first president I've really been excited about, and I'm 63 years old."

Felix Floyd, 36, of Atlanta spent the night with a friend in the Richmond area before boarding VRE.

"It's an electrifying event," Floyd said. " I think Obama has all the charisma to be the greatest president we've ever had so far. I wanted to say I was there, I voted for him, and I'm here now."

Not everyone on the train had a day off.

Two women from Stafford County, Lani Burnett, 53, and Diane Markham, 42, boarded the 5:15 a.m. train to head to work at the Reserve Officers Association, which was hosting a pre-inauguration breakfast for Medal of Honor recipients.

"We were amazed at how many people were already here at 5 o'clock in the morning and where they all came from," Burnett said.

Their office is on Capitol Hill, around the corner from the swearing-in ceremony, and they figured the road closures would keep their carpool from getting through, so they rode VRE.

They enjoyed the festivity on the train, but said they would not have a chance to see the events for themselves.

"It's kind of ironic our office is right behind the Capitol, and we'll be watching it on TV with the rest of the world!" Markham said.

Staff reporter Laura Moyer contributed to this story.

Kelly Hannon: 540/374-5436
Email: khannon@freelancestar.com


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