Blacklick resident Sarah Lee said attending President Barack Obama's second inauguration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- four years after she attended his first inauguration -- was a thrilling experience.
Lee has been a bus driver for Reynoldsburg City Schools for the past 16 years.
As volunteers for Obama's campaign, Lee and her sister, Allison Gray, an east Columbus resident, sat not far from Mayor Michael Coleman and other Columbus dignitaries during the inauguration, which was Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.
"As I watched President Obama being sworn in on Martin Luther King's birthday, I was remembering King's 'I have a dream' speech," Lee said. "I saw the masses of people and started looking at individual faces of all nationalities and ages. Then I pulled out the flag I brought and started crying.
"It was the Ohio flag and I felt deeply moved that I live in Ohio and that we were the ones who helped to re-elect him," she said. "A quote he (Obama) has used over and over again is that 'We are the ones we've been waiting for.' We have to all work together. No one else can fix this country."
Lee said she and her sister have followed and worked for Obama's campaign "every step of the way" for his initial election and his re-election.
"We went to every rally he had in the Columbus area," she said.
Attending the inauguration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day made the event even more thrilling, said Gray.
"You have all of these people coming together and (who) remember King's 'I have a dream'," she said, "and now you have you have someone who is sitting in office who is in the position to help us follow that dream.
"I felt so excited and moved to be there," she said. "I feel that President Obama is inclusive of everyone. We have to understand that we can do everything united. Little by little, you can get things done when you have people working with you. If one person adds another and then you add another, you end up with a strong force of many people."
Lee said she and her sister did not have seats during the first inauguration four years ago. They stood with a crowd of millions on a very cold day.
"We were all the way back by the Washington Monument," she said, "but I have always loved the American flag and what it represents. I was there and as I looked up at the flag, the blue had never been bluer, the red had never been redder and the stars had never been as bright. On that day, a nation was united -- millions of people as far as my eye could see."
The sisters did not know during that first inauguration that they were entitled to a closer view, and a seat, as campaign volunteers.
Lee said "being there" makes all the difference.
"You are actually feeling the hairs on your arms going up," she said. "It is so moving to look at all the different people. We couldn't really afford to make the trip at either time, but I wanted to smell, see, taste and touch that experience. We took a lot of photos and I told my sister that we have all these pictures of brick and mortar in Washington, D.C. But there is something about that brick and mortar and the sacrifices people made to have their names on those buildings."
She said the Martin Luther King Jr. monument was not there four years ago, so it was an added plus to be able to see it.
"This was the 150th year of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed," she said. "It was just wonderful to be able to see the new monument on King's birthday."
Gray said she is optimistic about President Obama's next four years in office.
"I feel he will continue making headway toward solving the nation's problems," she said. "He is going in the right direction. In a lot of things he has wanted to implement, especially the healthcare, or now the gun control, you can see a sense of urgency and know that he will back up what he says.
"A lot of things are wrong in this country, but I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "There are many things left to do, but I think we can trust he will do the best he can."