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By plane, train and car, people flock to capital

WASHINGTON — It’s been a weekend of firsts for Katie Orck.

Saturday, the Columbus High School freshman boarded an airplane bound for Washington, a city she has never visited — and stomached her first flight.

“Going up was exciting because I’d never done that before and even though I was chewing gum my ears popped and things like that,” the 14-year-old said.

Katie was one of 72 CHS students who traveled to the nation’s capital to see the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Warren Steele, a sophomore at Columbus High, said the security lines at Atlanta’s airport were short, the plane ride was quick and the hotel in which he and his classmates are staying is clean and comfortable.

Alan Smith, a junior, said it took only about two minutes for him to get through airport security in Atlanta.

Being a member of the group that left Atlanta on Saturday night, Alan said his plane didn’t touch down in Virginia until midnight Saturday. He and his classmates didn’t arrive at the hotel until about 1 a.m. Their 6:30 a.m. wake-up call came way too soon, Alan chuckled.

Father Tom Weise, a priest at St. Patrick Church in Phenix City, opted to drive to the capital to witness his fourth presidential inauguration. His journey began Sunday morning and ended about 12 hours later when he reached a friend’s home in Fort Royal, Va., for an overnight visit before continuing on to D.C.

“It was good,” Weise said of his road trip. “The weather was clear and I saw a lot of mountains.”

Monday morning Weise awoke to a wintery scene the likes of which he hasn’t witnessed in 20 years.

“It was snowing like crazy,” he said.

The weather didn’t at all impede Weise’s drive into the city to Saint Luke’s Catholic Rectory, where he’ll stay for the remainder of his trip, but he did decide to put away his car keys until the time comes to head home.

“Everybody tells us the same thing,” Weise said. “Leave your car where it is and take the subway.”

While some residents from the Chattahoochee Valley traveled to Washington by plane and others by car, retired educator Mattie Arrington chose the train.

“It was just a really cool ride,” Arrington said. “Everybody was very festive when the conductor pulled into Union Station here in Washington and said this has been a historic ride.”

The train was loaded with people of all ages and races, eager to be a part of today’s historic inauguration, Arrington said. The ride offered Arrington a narrow glimpse into the joyous atmosphere and optimistic attitudes she’d encounter in Washington.

Arrington is executive director of Children and Family Connection in Phenix City. She and Shelby Powell, a friend from Montgomery, Ala., will serve as volunteers on the National Mall.

Martha Dodson, a therapist at the Pastoral Institute, said the plane ride was abuzz with chatter about inaugural balls, politics and weather. The uniting factor, a desire to witness history, opened up conversations between strangers immediately and created an exciting atmosphere, she said.