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Forced to Pass on a Front Seat to History

Iris Williams, a registered nurse, will accompany Johnson, who has tried on several outfits and coats to gauge which ones will keep her warmest. And Cyndie Davis, a social worker at the retirement community, contacted the Georgetown Retirement Residence, which had a furnished apartment available that could provide Johnson with the accommodations she has in Cleveland.

The Georgetown Retirement Residence and its sister facility, Chevy Chase House, have at least two other reservations from seniors coming into town for the inauguration, said Vanessa Spevacek, director of admissions and marketing for the Georgetown facility.

Spevacek said a celebration will be held for seniors who choose not to venture out.

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), known for his work with the elderly, particularly arranging transportation for them, said the day might be too much for most. He said he is encouraging senior living facilities across the city to hold inaugural festivities.

Delta Towers resident Mary Henderson, 101, grew up in Newberry, S.C., where her grandfather's farm still had "slave huts."

She said that she never thought she would see a black man in the Oval Office but that she just can't make it to the inauguration. "What do you expect? These legs have carried me for 101 years," she said.

Several seniors at Delta Towers said they have out-of-town relatives planning to squeeze into their one-bedroom apartments. Most said they are leaving the Mall to the younger generations.

"From the time we wake up, there's going to be something," said Dorothy Edwards, 79, who volunteers to coordinate special events at the building, where residents' ages range from 62 to 102.

She surveyed the community room, where "The Young and the Restless" was on TV and a dozen seniors ate fish filets, mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley of corn, green beans and carrots. She weighed all possibilities for the inaugural celebration. "We were going to have a ball, but we decided against that," Edwards said.

"We'll have plenty of snacks," said the retired dietician. "We'll do some decorations. We'll do the tables, set out flowers. . . . Won't be nothing slack about it."

Adelaide Moore, 98, said she is considering skipping the party and opting for the comfort of her apartment. "Somebody will be talking," she said, taking a bite of her mashed potatoes. "You can't hear, and I want to take it all in."

For Ronald Meachum, 70, that means being there.

The D.C. native said his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren are traveling from London to come to the inauguration, and he wants to be with them.

Meachum remembered parking his car in Chinatown and walking to the inaugural parade of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. "I was at Seventh and Pennsylvania, and I caught a glimpse of him in the car," he said.

When he was 10 years old, he got an even better view of President Harry S. Truman. "I was right there at the Capitol. I was up in a tree," said Meachum, a retired warehouse worker.

He said he knows he won't get that close to Obama. "But it's so historic, you want to try to make an attempt to get down there," he said. "You want to try to get as close as you can. You want to get closer than the TV."

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