'It was really cool'

Shortly after Obama finished speaking, Jackson Gunhus, 12, of Davidsonville in Anne Arundel County, had this assessment: "It was really cool."

He and his mother, Nicole Gunhus, were taking in the day together after winning tickets from Rep. Steny Hoyer's office lottery drawing.

It had taken them an hour and a half to make it through security, and they were bundled up against the cold. But their spirits were high.

"Even though it was hard for him to see, at least he could be around everybody and get a sense of how important it is," Gunhus said of her son's experience.

'Second time around'

Lois Houston, 50, of Northwest D.C., was happy with a little space on the mall, taking in the fanfare in her hometown with her husband, Milford Ebo, 52, and children Mark Ebo, 14, Lauren Ebo, 12, and Laiya Ebo, 7.

It was a much better experience than four years ago, when Houston said she was stuck along with thousands of others in the Third Street Tunnel through Obama's first inauguration, in one of the most glaring logistical problems during the 2009 event, which drew nearly 2 million people.

"We were not even able to get close," Houston said. "We were stuck."

This year was much better, she said.

"We're excited about history, the second time around, and we're excited to be sharing it with our children," Houston said. "It's important for them to know they can aspire, too, to one day be president."

'Big fans'

Jane Flemming and Melinda Kempton, of Obama's hometown of Chicago, were among the many visitors to the region from elsewhere in the country. The pair "lucked out" and won tickets in a lottery from the office of Rep. Daniel Davis of Illinois, and also managed to snag tickets to an area ball, and told themselves they couldn't miss Obama's second swearing-in.

"We're big fans," Flemming said. "We were sorry to miss it last time. We weren't going to miss it again."