$144 Million Ticket Sold at D.C. Supermarket

"We need this for D.C., for the winner to come from our neighborhood," Arzetta Hilliard said after learning about the winning Powerball ticket. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 10, 2009

The thought electrified Southeast Washington all day: In the produce aisle, at the pharmacy counter or perhaps near the breakfast sausages, a newly minted multimillionaire could be lurking.

"Is it you?" grandmothers asked each other as they stood in the ever-growing line for lottery tickets, gripping their stacks of Scratchers, Hot Lotto tickets and Keno cards at the neighborhood's Alabama Avenue Giant Food supermarket.

The idea that the winning $144 million Powerball ticket was sold at the counter in front of them sparked the imagination, dreams and gossip. It made them crazy. And a little proud.

For decades, residents of Ward 8 had watched as vast grocery stores were built in other wards, as fancy condominiums went up elsewhere in the region and as Powerball lottery winners from other parts of the country mugged for the cameras. At long last, they have a shiny new supermarket. Condo developments have been built. And, finally, according to lottery officials, a multimillionaire had been made right there on Alabama Avenue.

"I come here to play almost every day but yesterday," lamented Arzetta Hilliard, who didn't indulge her lottery habit Wednesday, her 54th birthday and the day someone at the Giant bought a ticket with the winning numbers 1-6-48-52-56, and 9. Those numbers entitle the winner to the largest jackpot in D.C. lottery history, officials said.

"But we need this for D.C., for the winner to come from our neighborhood," Hilliard said. "It's always someone from somewhere else. But whoever it is, I hope it's someone who is from our neighborhood, has worked for a long time, deserves it and will enjoy it."

The winner remained a mystery yesterday. D.C. Lottery officials waited outside the store in a bright blue van decorated with stars and lottery logos. They had a bunch of balloons and a camera ready.

"Usually, they'll call the claim center. But you never know," said Athena Hernandez, spokeswoman for the D.C. Lottery, as she waited for the person who beat the 1-in-196 million odds against having the right numbers.

Before a face and a name could be attached to the winnings, people's thoughts drifted to all kinds of "if I won" scenarios:

Jamaica. Aruba. London.

"A trip to the islands. I ain't hatin' on men, but for something like this, it would be all us sisters, getting our groove back," said Joyce Williams, 50, who said her religious beliefs forbid her to buy lottery tickets. But not from dreaming.

Others ticked off what they would buy. The cars. The houses. The things.

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