With four minutes to spare, Cathy Carr-Helmuth of Forsyth County watched history happen a few yards away as President Barack Obama was sworn in Tuesday.
Not willing to take any chances, Carr-Helmuth left her hotel at 5 a.m. Within two hours, she and her friend Diane Brookins had reached the first checkpoint, only to be blocked from entering.
"We had to then go back behind the Capitol building, all the way around to the next gate for us to gain entrance," Carr-Helmuth said. "Finally, we were cleared and went through security. They told us to move rapidly because we had four minutes to get in."
Carr-Helmuth, an English language arts teacher at North Forsyth Middle School, arrived Saturday in Washington, D.C. Brookins secured their inauguration tickets from 10th District Congressman Paul Broun.
Carr-Helmuth said it was difficult to describe the swearing-in ceremony.
"I've never experienced anything like that," she said by phone a few hours after the inauguration. "There was positive energy, a connection among the people that there is just no way to describe."
"Everyone's been extremely nice and they have a sense of new beginning and something different, just such an energy charge and a connection among the people.
"One man had his hands up to the sky and he was shouting, 'Today's the day.'"
More than 1 million people crowded the National Mall to witness the historical event, but Carr-Helmuth said she was surprised by the makeup of the crowd, not its size.
"We saw people from New Zealand and from around the world, not just around the country," she said. "What was unique is the mixture, the diversity of the crowd, not only ethnic, but also with age."
Carr-Helmuth, who will return home today, has been blogging about her experience to her students since she left.
Her blog has included photos from events and directions to her students on what to look for during Obama's speech, including mention of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"I wanted to bring the experience back to our community," she said.
At least two other Forsyth County residents, Rob Abraham and Linda Williams, were scheduled to attend the inauguration.