They started to congregate before dawn Tuesday -- long before dawn -- the people drawn to Washington, D.C., to witness history.
Some wore sweatshirts emblazoned with the faces of President-elect Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr., shirts that read simply: "The Dream." Others waved flags and banners and signs.
All came to be part of American history. At noon, Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president -- and first African-American president -- of the United States. By 8 a.m., four hours before that historic moment, several hundred thousand had gathered along the inauguration route -- massing outside the Capitol, filling the National Mall. Lining streets.
Braving the cold, the elements. The crush of humanity.
Staking out a vantage point.
National Guard troops appeared to be everywhere, manning corners all over the city.Coffee shops were packed -- and entrepreneurs set up impromptu shops on lawns and sidewalks off Pennsylvania Avenue.
One man, Roy Wilkins, 66, was selling coffee, hot chocolate and tea for $2 a cup from a folding table on a friend's lawn on a side street about a mile from the Capitol building. He had a 10-gallon jug of water. And a gas burner. He said he was simply: "Trying to raise money to help some folks out." He didn't say who.
Out on the main streets, some vendors hawked Obama T-shirts. One in particular was set up as a baseball jersey with a big number "44" on the back.
Some of those gathered had begun to arrive as early as 4 a.m., according to witnesses.
As the sun rose over Washington Tuesday, it was apparent from the scene that the day would be like none ever seen in the city. Or, this nation.
Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this report.