Clarence Meachem stood in front of President Abraham Lincoln's statue in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals, and snapped pictures of the man credited with freeing four million enslaved Africans.
Afterward, Meachem reflected on bearing witness to President Barack Obama's second inauguration.
"I was on the [National] Mall and I thought it was great," said Meachem, 70. "I missed the first inauguration and couldn't miss this one. I have never been through something of this magnitude. He was a godsend and he's doing a good job despite the obstacles."
Meachem, a power plant operator at North Carolina A&T University, said he traveled by bus with a group of 25 from Greensboro, N.C., and after the Inaugural Parade planned to jump back on the bus and head south.
"I never thought I'd see a black president in my lifetime," he said. "[Obama's] election has irreversibly changed the country. His being the first black president is tremendously important. He's done so much but it's gone unnoticed."
January 21st marked the 57th Inauguration, where between 800,000 and one million people crowded the National Mall, despite chilly temperatures. A confident Obama laid out an assured and detailed vision of what he imagines America's future to be.
He took his public oath of office on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, in a year that includes the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
The president called for collective action to deal with issues such as immigration reform, climate change, gun control, equal pay for women and gay rights.
Much of downtown around the Capitol, the Mall and areas along the parade route were shut down, with thousands of police, Army and other security officials manning barricades and barriers. Troop transports, Humvees and an imposing gun metal-colored SWAT vehicle sat on broad, empty streets. Large wire fences, concrete barricades, Metro buses, and helicopters overhead ensured that the day's festivities went off without a hitch.
The overwhelming presence of vendors could not be missed either. They hawked everything from caps, scarves, T-shirts, flags, key rings, calendars and buttons. Enterprising ones even took the day's paper and had it laminated and ready for sale before the swearing in ceremony was over.
A sea of humanity moved from the Mall to the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, decked out in Obama paraphernalia, American flags and a host of other mementos. The pomp, pageantry and majesty of the day's events engendered pride. Tens of thousands of people, standing six and eight deep on the sidewalks, sought out higher ground in an attempt to get a better view. Some climbed statues and trees, others clambered onto embankments or grabbed a spot on steps of buildings such as the National Archives.
Baltimore resident Katie Runkel stood atop a trash can, armed with binoculars waiting for the parade to begin.
"President Obama prompted me to come out," the 24-year-old music major said. "I'm a grad student and he offers far better possibilities for student loans."
Runkel, who studies at the Peabody Conservatory, expressed glowing admiration for Obama.
"He's such a dignified and respectful man. I think it's an honor to have him as president."
The California native came with her husband David, 26, and friend Mary Trotter, 27. The trio said they enjoyed their trip but complained about not being able to hear the Jumbotron.
"The TVs weren't working and the audio was in and out. About 200,000 people started booing at the screen," Runkel said with a laugh.
"... we saw and we heard some but not too much," Trotter interjected.
She spoke of the sense of history she felt.
"I will probably never do this again. Mostly, it's because it's MLK Day," said Trotter referring to the national holiday set aside on the third Monday of every January to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. "I wanted to be here, feel the energy and see what it was like."
Lorenzo Matthews, a 57-year-old engineer from Philadelphia, Pa., traveled to the District at 1 a.m. with his family. He saw the swearing in from the Mall and trekked to Indiana Avenue in Northwest to watch the parade.
"It seems like a lot of folks are joyous about the inauguration. I enjoyed it myself," he said. "At the time of the last inauguration, I had young kids at home so we couldn't come down. Now they're older."
Matthews outlined some of his hopes for Obama's second term.
"I think he did as well in the first term as I had expected him to do given the Congress he was dealing with. I'm really concerned about taxes and who gets taxed. I also think everyone should have access to health care. While I'm fortunate enough to have insurance, there are some people who are not."
"In the second term, I hope [he] pushes through the things ... on his agenda but I want him to deal with education and the housing market."
Kayle Rodgers, a cashier at Starbucks in one of the court buildings downtown, left work at around 3:45 p.m. to catch a glimpse of the crowd.
"It has been a really good vibe around here. Everyone is excited," said Rodgers, a Salem, Ore., native who has lived in the District for five years. "Yesterday was very touristy so it's good to see Washingtonians just walking around. It's nice to see everyone come together."
Kara Franz and Jenn Molay looked like America's twins. The pair wore Carnival beads, sunglasses, hats and leg warmers adorned with red, white and blue.
"The excitement of the city brought me out today," said Franz, 26, with a laugh. "It's been great so far."
Molay, 26, said they have enjoyed several inaugural events over the past nine years.
"[But] we decided to dress up this year," she said. "We had fun shopping for our beads, hats and sunglasses."
Patricia Martin, a 77-year-old retired Winston Salem State University employee, gushed about Obama and the symbolism of his presidency.
"This is my first experience. I stood in line for about 2 ½ hours but missed seeing the swearing in," said Martin. "I feel excited, so excited. It's hard to explain. I'm sorry it took so long. I never, never thought I'd lived to see this day."