Complete Inaugural Coverage
WASHINGTON -- After more than a year of neighborhood canvassing, working the phones and registering voters, volunteers at Harlem4Obama have traveled a long journey.
The volunteers are exuberant - but also reflective. Alima Berkoun, an immigrant who has lived in Harlem for 13 years, remembers months of sleeping on floors, working 18-hour days and ultimately winning over a wary neighborhood.
"It didn't happen overnight. It was very challenging in the beginning, especially in Harlem," she said. "We had to overcome this skepticism and this doubt ... that there could ever be a black president. It's a lesson that there's 'no never.'"
"People were conflicted," he said. "Barack helped us realize as a changing community that we can find this common ground... He made us work on it. So Harlem feels a connection to him that's very emotional."
A different kind of emotion, however, is permeating the trip to D.C. On the eve of the presidential election, volunteer Erica Strand was struck by a car and seriously injured in New York. Strand, who slept on floors in New Hampshire and Iowa on behalf of Harlem4Obama, is recovering but wasn't able to attend the inauguration. "She symbolizes the dedication of the campaign," said Berkoun.
But with the long campaign road in their rear view mirror, the volunteers are finally relishing the path to Mr. Obama's crowning moment.
"It's magical," said Berkoun, who secured a coveted ticket to Mr. Obama's swearing-in ceremony. "I feel like nothing was in vain and nothing could stop us now."