THE KANDEL / WONGS
Michael Kandel of Douglaston, Queens, decided in October to attend Barack Obama's inauguration, he said, when his partner's 82-year-old mother decided to vote for the Illinois senator.
"And she only did it because our 8-year-old said, 'But Grandma, McCain doesn't recognize our family.'"
Kandel, 49, a gay sixth-grade English and history teacher at Mineola Middle School, has attended large gay-rights and AIDS-awareness rallies in the capital and wanted his family to share in such a large political event.
"I know the feelings conjured up by being in D.C.," he said. "There's a powerful sense of community when attending a political event. This is one that my partner and I knew we didn't want to miss."
Kandel, his partner Darryl Wong, and their daughter, Chloe, and Kandel's 26-year-old niece are hoping to score last-minute tickets from Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Estates). But they're going with or without tickets and are more than happy to watch the proceedings among the millions of others expected on the National Mall.
"As a public school teacher, and one that feels it's essential to push for social justice, it's like a culminating activity going to the inauguration," Kandel said. "It wouldn't feel that way watching it on TV."
Annmarie Thompson of Valley Stream will be making her first visit to her adopted nation's capital to watch Barack Obama's swearing-in.
"It is a dream come true for me, that I'm going to be there for this historical moment, to go there and see everything live," said Thompson, 39, who emigrated to New York from her native Jamaica in 1990. "It is wonderful, I am just full of happiness."
Thompson, a data-entry administrator at Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, won tickets to watch the inauguration up close from Sen. Charles Schumer, who conducted a statewide lottery in December to distribute 175 pairs of tickets. Without a hotel room, she's staying in Maryland with her sister's godsister, who is accompanying her to the historic event.
Like scores of others trekking to Washington, Thompson has high expectations for Obama's administration.
"I hope the best for him," she said. "I hope that what he says he's going to do, he'll do it. I hope that he does his best."
But Thompson said she's aware of the difficulties that face the president-elect. She doesn't expect him to complete all of his campaign promises right away.
"It's not going to be easy," she said. "We're really in a bad situation right now. It's going to take time for him to get the country back running."
Among the millions who are expected to watch Barack Obama's inauguration from the National Mall, David Byer-Tyre has a plan to secure a good viewing spot for himself and 40 friends.
"I do have a strategy for getting as close as I possibly can," said Byer-Tyre, the director of the African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead. "I have 40 other friends who are meeting me there. We're going to go in waves and start securing an area."
Byer-Tyre, 38, of South Farmingdale, said there was "no question" that he would make the trip to Washington to watch the inauguration of the nation's first black president.
He said: "With the first African-American president, being the director of an institution that represents the African-American community, it's good to be able to describe the firsthand experience of participating in this event to those who wouldn't be able to attend."
The presumed inconveniences - crowds, travel, long waits in the cold - are nothing, he said, compared to the value of being there in person.
"I don't know what the experience is going to be," he said, "but it's one that I would never miss."