Peggy and Joe Grate, 75, from New Haven, Conn., have lived through segregation, attended Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, and the Million Man March.
"Just hair-rising. Bone chilling. Just heart wrenching," Peggy Grate said about taking part in these moments of history. "The March on Washington just stirred my soul."
Now, the Grates are headed to Washington, D.C., to share in the same energy and pride at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.
A travel agent, Peggy organized two busloads of nearly 100 friends and families to travel to D.C. together. They plan to leave Monday night at 11p.m., making the six-hour drive to Washington D.C. and return the same day.
"Only death would keep me from being there," Peggy Grate said. "To see one of us rise to this extent, it just swells my heart. And I don't think words can possibly describe the feeling that we all share about this."
Joe Grate was born and raised on a plantation in South Carolina, owned by the Vanderbilts, who are now his friends and he still visits annually. His great, great grandfather was born into slavery. He remembers the days of segregation, when African Americans weren't served at many restaurants.
"We had to go through the back door in order to get something to eat. I remember all the young white kids driving through in their cars and being served," he said. "It's just really something."
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In all of his years and experiences in the South, Grate never dreamed this would happen in his lifetime. "I wouldn't miss it for anything in the world," he said.
Although they don't have tickets to the ceremony, the Grates will be overjoyed to simply be on the Mall. Joe Grate won't be able to see the ceremony -- not because of the crowd -- but because he is legally blind. Still, he wants to be there to share in this moment.
"I ... will never be able to see him [Obama]," Grate said. "I will be able to hear his voice, feel the excitement and tell my children's children and their children that grandpa was there."
With Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech and the Million Man March under their belts, the Grates have some idea of what to expect on the Mall -- seeing so many gathered in one place.
"We're going to feel the electricity of all the other folks, thousands of other people there. My mind, it just races. It's going to be a great day I can tell you that, in my life, it's going to be a great day," he said.
For Nikki Lecompte, 36, a mother of four from Houston, making the trip to Washington, D.C., for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration was a given.
Even though she was laid off from her job as a project secretary at Shell Oil and the trip will be a financial strain for the family, Lecompte is determined to be a part of this moment in history.
"I know financially this is not something that I can imagine," she said. But, "I said I was going to do whatever I had to do. If I had to beg on street corners, I was going to try to find a way to get to D.C."
With a deep pride in her African-American history, Lecompte's journey is a tribute to earlier generations that fought for change. Her grandmother's first husband was lynched and murdered by racists, and her parents were raised during segregation.