WASHINGTON - There are as many unique and personal stories as there are people jamming the National Mall here for the inauguration of President Obama.
While hundreds of thousands of excited onlookers had gathered along the lawns that lead to the U.S. Capitol, the inauguration provided a special moment for the Hall family of Baxley, Ga.
Cassandra Carter, 29, says her father, Esco Hall Jr., lived through segregation in Georgia and was one of the first blacks to be admitted to the University of Georgia's veterinary school. Today her 64-year-old father is a Baxley councilman.
Four years ago, they couldn't make the trip. Cassandra Carter says they weren't going to let another chance to take part in history slip away.
"This is a once in a lifetime thing," Carter says.
She says the president's re-election shows how far the nation has come from the days when her father was in school.
Her niece Alexis Smith, 13, says it gives her hope.
"Most people think black people can't do anything, so him being in the White House proves them wrong," she says.
Zulfat Suara, 45, of Bolivar, Tenn., made a 15-hour bus ride with 150 others to be in town for the inaugural celebration.
She had tickets to Obama's first inauguration four years ago but gave them to her daughter who was attending Howard University in Washington at the time.
Suara said the historic nature of Obama's first inauguration was something special, but in some ways this second inauguration resonates deeper.
"To have a second term - especially considering the difficulties he faced in his first term - it's almost sweeter that the people elected him a second time," she said.
Febbie Pearsol of Woodbridge, Va., visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial before walking to the Capitol for the inaugural celebration.
"I'm so proud," said Pearsol, 44, whose mother particpated in King's March on Washington in 1963. Pearsol gestured to the King memorial and said Obama "is here because of this man."
Rachael Bardnell, a 20-year-old theater student, was one of 80 students from Otterbein University in Ohio to pay $80 each for the two-day trip. Her reason for coming to Washington was pragmatic.
"An inauguration is an inauguration," she said "It's a big, monumental event. It's a celebration."
Marisol Bello and Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY