Jurrell Gilliam and JoAnn Anderson are inspired.
They are two of more than one million people who traveled to Washington D.C. to see President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“I felt connected,” Anderson said. “I felt that it was worth the trip. It wasn’t as emotional as the first one, but it was like, ‘this is it.’”
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Obama on Jan. 21 at the Capitol’s West Front.
Anderson, an employee of Marshalls and a Democratic campaign worker, said the event was the capstone for all those who contributed to the 2012 election.
“The primaries and all of the groundwork we laid in the political process this time needed to be finalized,” Anderson said. “This is a year for Democrats to get that feeling of accomplishment, we fought it all together and it made us much stronger as a small group to continue to push forward.”
The result of that political work is what touched Gilliam the most.
“My heart was leaping with joy because he was a second term president,” she said. “It was overwhelming to me.”
Gilliam, a retired schoolteacher from the Houston area, took seven children and members of her family with her on the trip.
Among those was her 92-year-old mother.
“She kept saying, ‘I just never thought I’d see it,’” Gilliam said. “I said, ‘I never thought I would either.’”
As a former schoolteacher, Gilliam said she dedicated herself to educating the children of the historic occasion.
“I wanted the children to be exposed to things they probably won’t see again in their lifetime,” she said. “I know I won’t.”
The impact the event has on the children, Gilliam said, is the excitement they have when they go home and the memories they make.
“They came back with things they can tell their classmates and teachers,” she said. “They wanted to come back and let them know what went on.”
During the pre-inauguration festivities, Gilliam said there were areas set up for kids including one near the recently installed statue of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It let me teach the kids different things that happened during the time. I said, ‘Here’s a black man (King) that fought so that this black man (Obama) could reap the benefits.’ It’s like we always tell (the kids), ‘Even if you don’t make it, someone else can.’ That’s what (King) did.”
This wasn’t Gilliam’s first inauguration, seeing Bill Clinton’s two inaugurations and Obama’s first in 2008.
Anderson went to the inauguration as a first time participant. The most memorable portion of the experience was just after Obama’s speech.
“Just when you thought that listening to all of the entertainment and the inaugural address you thought it was over with,” Anderson said. “When Pres. Obama turned and looked over the crowd when he was getting ready to go he said, ‘let me just get one last look, one more time.’”
That took her by surprise.
“I said, ‘He wants to look at us’,” she said. “The crowd was just ecstatic. I’ll never forget that. It seems like he thought, ‘You know they worked hard, I’ll never get to see this crowd together again.’”
Getting to see that wasn’t easy for the two members of the Walker County Democrats. Both had to save money for the trip.
“(My sisters and I) knew how much it was going to be from attending the (Democratic National Convention),” Anderson said. “With Christmas gifts and donations, we made it work and saved up for the trip.”
Gilliam used her former teacher credentials to scrape the barrel.
“School teachers know how to save,” Gilliam said. “We didn’t get a lot for our classroom so we had to go out and get it. So, I saved.”
Gilliam said it was important for her to pay for the children’s trip because their parents wouldn’t be able to afford it. Her three hotel rooms cost more than $1,400.
“When I know I want to do something, I start putting money aside.”
For Anderson, the inauguration was more than the swearing in of a president. It was about the energy.
“Everybody was sharing that body heat,” Anderson said. “Black, white, Asian…we were all in there. We were all reenergized again just listening to him.”
Cindy Blaylock, chairwoman of the Walker County Democrats, understands what the event meant to the two women.
“It was important to them to be a part of the process,” Blaylock said. “It wasn’t just about the campaign, it is also a part of history.”
Anderson is already looking forward to the 2016 campaign.
“It’s inspiring knowing that his inauguration isn’t the end,” Anderson said. “It’s the beginning of what we have going forward.”