As people head to the Mall, subways are filled in "near-crush conditions"

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We were up at 4:30 to catch a city bus to downtown DC. As we passed the train platforms, they were crammed with people - the radio described them as "near-crush conditions."

The bus dropped us off about 10 blocks from the Mall, and from there we walked - past soldiers and police officers at every corner, joining gradually with others in a stream of humanity heading towards the Washington Monument at the West End of the National Mall.

No security yet as the lit-up face of the Capitol comes into view at the far end of the Mall. People are everywhere - volunteers are shouting "Good Morning" to everyone - and it is cold, very cold.

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The Mall is about half-filled and more people are coming. Spectators are huddled on blankets or standing over heating grates to keep warm - the temperature is supposed to be in the 20s all morning.

We're just beginning to get a hint of sunrise, and the spirit on the Mall is decidedly festive - if it weren't for the cold, it would seem like an enormous Fourth of July party with the profusion of American flags. Spontaneous cheers of 'Obama' go up in the crowd at frequent intervals.

--Robert Veneman-Hughes

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