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An amazing day

By Rehema Ellis, NBC News correspondent

It was an amazing day.

While standing at the West Front of the Capitol I was surrounded by nearly 30,000 ticketed spectators who had seats.

210,000 others had tickets but they had to stand for the inauguration. To no surprise however, none of them seemed to care.

This was all about the moment and the power of history to draw witnesses.

All eyes where fixed on the podium and the jumbo screens to catch every aspect of the inauguration.

One after another, people I spoke with shared stories about what this day meant to them. Nearly all said this day was about unity.

There was an older African-American woman who traveled to Washington by train. In between tears and smiles she told the story of struggling with her suitcase. Much to her surprise she said, a white man touched her on the shoulder and offered to carry her bag. "We're all going in the same direction", he said. "Let me help you".

A young white man told me he had been blogging but had to stop because he was crying so much during the ceremony. "It's not what I expected to happen", he said. "I knew this would be important and emotional momentum, but I didn't expect it to move me like this".

Then there was a conversation I had with John Harrison, Major U.S. Air force, retired. He's 86 years old and one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who defied all expectations as the first black military airmen. When he saw Michelle Obama walk onto the Capitol platform he said, "my heart skipped a beat". This is what I was fighting for. That from a man who lived through blatant racism and who flew daring missions during World War I I.

But a brief interview I did with a white couple who came here from Florida with their three young children may indeed sum up what today was all about.

After President Obama's inaugural address, I asked the mother her thoughts as she was holding her three-year old son in her arms, sheltering him from the cold.

She said, "I woke my children after the election of Obama and said, 'babies while you were sleeping Martin Luther King's dream came true".

She went on to say, " My feet are so cold, my toes are frozen, but I wouldn't be anywhere else right now".