WASHINGTON -- More than 50 members of the Lakeview branch of the NAACP bundled into a bus at 3 a.m. Monday -- headed to the nation's capital, they said, to witness history.
Hours later, as they strode through the crisp cold to the National Mall to witness the second inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama, branch president Bea Bayley said, "I want to be able to tell my children that I was there . . . I want to record the history in my mind."
Long drives, long lines and long hours in the cold greeted many Long Islanders who witnessed Obama's inauguration, but many echoed Bayley in saying they did so to share the moment with their children.
Nathalie Lilavois, of Central Islip, who attended with daughter Brianna, 14, said her favorite part of Obama's speech was "his call to action to every American regardless of differences."
A group of Mastic Beach volunteer EMTs, some accompanied by their sons, left Long Island at 4 a.m. to make the drive to Washington. "We're getting in the spirit and letting the kids experience something they won't ever experience again," Joe Galizio, 38, said on the National Mall.
They were among hundreds of thousands who packed the National Mall, waving American flags and cheering when the president appeared on the Jumbotrons. Some, such as Bayley, 55, just stared intently at the big screens and smiled.
"I never thought I would be here to see Obama inaugurated," said Malik James, 16, of Wyandanch, part of Bayley's group. "It's something good for me to experience in my life."
Justin Dobrow, 17, of Selden, who attended with classmates from Newfield High School, said he appreciated that Obama's speech emphasized the future and how young people "have to get together and we have to volunteer and . . . be the change that we want to see."
A group of Levittown students from Division Avenue and MacArthur high schools left their Virginia hotel at 6 a.m. to get a prime viewing spot, but found themselves shut out of the event along with thousands of others because they said there were not enough police officers at one entrance to properly check people entering the area.
Mertella Barnes of Malverne, one of the Lakeview branch members, said she hopes Obama is not the last black president, but because he is the first, "I have to be part of history. Now I can tell my grandchildren."
With Gary Dymski
and Ellen Yan