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Hurricane Victims Recalled at Southern Ball

Another dance, this time at the Southern Ball. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Our colleague Emily Yahr reports:

At 10 minutes before 8 p.m., the coat check supervisor at the Southern Inaugural Ball at the National Guard D.C. Armory frantically called for a quick meeting.

"It's 10,000 coats ... so I'm sorry if I'm a little snappy," she said to her staff, before launching into the dos and don'ts of the evening. Do: aim for perfection. Don't: lose anyone's coat. Or scarves. Or gloves.

The chilly weather hadn't stopped people from lining up outside the Armory well before 8 p.m., though the program began at 10, and the Obamas and Bidens weren't scheduled to arrive until around 2 a.m.

Clint Hermes and Jennifer Johnson of Memphis were first in line. Their motivation? Getting turned away from the inauguration ceremony this morning. This time, they didn't want to miss a thing.

"That was partly the reason" the two had the cab drop them off more than hour before doors opened, Hermes said. It had been a long day, agreed Johnson, who, like several others, kicked off her high heels almost instantly upon entering the ball.

People entered on a red carpet, slowly taking in the giant room, but quickly jumping into action to snap cell phone pictures in front of the stage. Others made a beeline for the food tables, covered in trays of brownies, cookies, fruit, plenty of cheese cubes and crackers, and cupcakes decorated with red, white and blue icing that matched the color scheme of the candles.

Though the room was full of euphoric people -- one woman clicked her heels for joy on the way inside -- the entertainment for the evening provided at least one sobering moment. Susan Tedesci, singing with The Derek Trucks Band, dedicated the song "700 Houses" to victims of hurricanes in the South.

As 11 p.m. rolled around, the common question seemed to be, "Do you know when he's supposed to get here?" But no one seemed in a hurry to leave, even though the scheduled time for the Obamas was so late. And the band played on, groups stood talking and some swayed; no real dancing yet as waiters brought out bowls of chips and more people filtered in.

For Dick and Grace Obermann of Vienna, Va., the crowd was a relief compared to last night. They attended the Huffington Post party, and though they saw plenty of A-listers, barely had room to breathe. "People were crammed like sardines," Grace said.

Joe and Jill Biden arrived at 11:45. "The South spoke loudly this year," the vice president said. He spoke about looking down at the Mall while Justice Stevens swore him in this morning and said, "It was an incredible, incredible scene." After making a joke about his tendency to quote Irish poets, he said, "Everyone knows we're in trouble ... but we tend to underestimate the grit and determination of the American people." After quoting one of his favorite Irish poets, he urged the crowd to "join Barack and me," ending, "God bless you all, thank you."

He and Jill danced briefly to the song "Have I Told You Lately."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 20, 2009; 11:59 PM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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