Those were two of the experiences of people from the credit union movement as they watched Barack Obama sworn in as the country's 44th president last week.
Navy Federal Credit Union committee volunteer Rear Admiral Earl Gay was deputy chairman of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which coordinates the involvement of members of all the armed services in the various events surrounding the inaugural. The armed services have played a key role in the previous 55 inaugural ceremonies, going back to George Washington's in April 1789.
Gay, who was not available for comment, has been a member of Navy Federal's membership committee since January 2008.
"First and foremost, it is an honor to be a part of such a historic event. To be here at the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee representing the thousands of men and women serving our country, at home and abroad, leaves me humbled," Gay said.
Gay's task was monumental. Between Jan. 15 and 24, armed forces personnel provided support to inaugural events, which included musical units, marching bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons. On the day of the inauguration alone, more than 5,000 service members were involved.
Dillon Shea stood in the cold for four hours, and even though he was on the National Mall, he could see Obama only as "a dot in the distance" and watched the ceremony on the JumboTron. He got in line at 7:30 a.m. but was admitted to the viewing area for which he had tickets 10 minutes before the ceremony started.
But Shea, NAFCU's director of political affairs, said he wouldn't have missed the inaugural for anything in the world. "It was great to be a part of the historical moment," he said.
Gene Fitzpatrick, vice president of lending at Numerica Credit Union in Spokane, Wash., attended the inaugural and described the crowds as followed in his blog on the credit union's Web site (www.numericacu.com):
"At times it was shoulder to shoulder and you could not raise your hand from your side until the crowd shifted. However, the close quarters helped cut the cold."
"The flag over the Capitol was picture perfect in the wind, but it was less than perfect on the Mall. But the crowd was good, very patient and in good humor. It was relatively quiet for a million plus," he wrote.
CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica sat in the section reserved for former members of Congress and said the enthusiasm among attendees was "unlike any other inaugural I've attended in the 40 years I've been going to these."
He said Obama's message embodied the mission of credit unions. "He talked about the need to help people and can't all be done by government, that's what we're about. And if those words are translated into policy, it will be good for credit unions and the country," Mica said.
Four members of CUNA's executive committee attended the inaugural as well.
CUNA held a parade-watching reception for about 90 people in its offices, which overlook the parade route.
NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker watched the event from a reception of Congressional Medal of Honor winners and said he found the speech to be "inspiring."