Senators collapse at Obama luncheon

Ted Kennedy taken away in ambulance

NEW YORK -- The joyous tone of the inauguration turned sober a few hours after President Barack Obama's swearing-in with the sudden collapse of two longtime senators.

CNN, ABC and other networks reported around 2:30 p.m. ET that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., had had an extended seizure at the luncheon at National Statuary Hall that had honored Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Kennedy was taken out of the Capitol luncheon with a seizure continuing. Kennedy had undergone brain surgery after being struck with a seizure on May 20. He made an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last August and then returned to the Senate late last year.

"It's a sobering moment," ABC News' Charles Gibson said while reporting it.

There were also reports that Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, and a close friend of Kennedy's, also collapsed upon seeing Kennedy. Byrd is the oldest member of the Senate.

There was no word on either senator's condition. Kennedy was taken away in an ambulance.

"Certainly this is horrible news no matter who it was and changing the tone here dramatically," CNN correspondent Dana Bash said in reporting the news, when it was still quite fluid.

The tone did change, with a visibly shaken Obama relaying his concerns.

"I would by lying to you if I didn't say that a part of me is with him, and I think that's the case for all of us in this room," Obama said soberly.

Kennedy was an early backer of Obama; his niece, Caroline, is reported to be the leading candidate to replace Hillary R. Clinton as New York's senator.

CBS News senior Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said that Kennedy had been at the ceremony earlier.

"I was frankly surprised to see him here given the state of his health," Schieffer said. "But he really wanted to be here."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told ABC's Jonathan Karl that he, Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. John Kerry had accompanied Kennedy to the ambulance. He said that Kennedy was talking before being loaded into the ambulance. He declined to talk about what Kennedy said.

"I wished he hadn't come today, but he is someone who loves history, and loves this place," Hatch said. "He wouldn't have missed this for the world."
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