As soon as President Barack Obama emerged from the nation's capital building there was screaming and shouting.
"It brought back an appreciation for freedom," said Winston Clay. "And as soon as he [Obama] began to speak, people started crying."
The 17-year-old Howard School junior was among an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 people from across the country, including hundreds from Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn., who attended Obama's historic second inauguration Monday.
"It is a marvelous sight, truly an extraordinary experience," said Clay while watching the inauguration in Washington, D.C., with his father, George Clay.
The crowd, packed with people enduring the cold weather, included many Obama supporters wearing jackets, T-shirts and hats that read "Fulfilling the dream," Clay said. The clothing displayed the late King on one side and Obama on the other.
King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 in the nation's capital. The march pushed the 1964 Civil Rights Act that ended unequal application of voter registration and demanded an end to racial desegregation in schools and public places.
Nearly 50 years after that march and 40 years after King's assassination, Obama was elected as the country's first black president in 2008. He won a second term in November 2012.
"King took an assassin's bullet and went to the other side believing that this day will happen," said Dr. Sylvia J. Greene, a local retired educator who also attended the inauguration.
Marvella Cox said she couldn't stop looking at the expressions on the faces of Obama's family.
"It was like they said, 'We made it again, and we're going to do so much to improve conditions during this term,'" which performed just before the inauguration.
The Lee University choir was beautiful, Cox said.
"And when they broke out with the 'Chattanooga Choo Choo,' I went crazy, and everybody around was asking, 'Are you from Chattanooga?'"
BEST SEAT IN HOUSE
That's how singers in the 204-member Lee University Festival Choir described their vantage point for a 17-minute performance of six songs, including "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
Later, they watched over Obama's shoulder as he gave his inaugural address.
"I was probably 50 feet from the stand where he did his speech and they did the swearing-in and everything," said Jordan Mulkey, a 19-year-old choir sophomore from Ooltewah. "I had no idea it was going to be that close."
"It was fantastic," Mulkey said of the entire experience. "It was once in a lifetime."
Devlin Reasy, 21, a sophomore from Minnesota, said, "Never been that close to a president before. I kind of like reverted to childhood. ... Oh my goodness, I can't believe this is happening."
Other political celebrities within shouting distance of choir members were former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, members of the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Sen. John McCain.
Students also were close to performers Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry.
The choir's performance "went off without a hitch," university spokesman Brian Conn said.
Mulkey said, "It was the best performance that we had."
Mulkey said he got up at 3 a.m. Monday. The choir checked out of their hotel early Monday and got to the Dirksen Senate Office Building near the Capitol around 6:45 a.m.
They were seated in their bleachers at 8:40 a.m. and started singing at 9:45 a.m.
The choir was expected to be back in Cleveland around midnight Monday after a 131/2-hour bus trip from Washington, D.C.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey, met choir members during a mid-day sound check Sunday.
"Sen. Lamar Alexander is the one who got us there," Conn said. "He came with his wife, and they well-wished and congratulated the students."
Clay said he walked the path of the March on Washington to get to the National Mall, where he and his father watched Obama give his inaugural address.
Throughout his speech Obama kept saying, "We the people, we the people," said Clay.
He said Obama's speech emphasized that people have to come together to make life better for everyone.
The goal is to make sure that everyone has life, liberty and opportunity to pursue happiness. A girl born poor should have equal opportunity to attend college and start a business as another born wealthy, Obama said.
Obama's speech covered issues from slavery to civil rights to equal opportunity.
"I was proud of him for that," said Cox.
But the overarching theme was people working together for the good of their fellow men and women, she said.
Patricia Pace said Obama's speech "hit home. He said it's not about individuals; it's about what we can do together."
Clay summed up the speech, saying, "It takes one person to make a movement. It's going to take many to make a change."
Read the full inaugural address here.