Julie Cordray of Sun City Hilton Head is black and grew up in South Carolina during the civil rights era.
Ina Takashima of Hilton Head Island is a Japanese-American who was incarcerated with her parents in an internment camp during World War II.
Lena Epps Brooker is a Native American who grew up in a part of North Carolina that had three-way segregation separating whites, blacks and "Indians."
The three women hugged, cheered and cried Tuesday as they watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama with about 100 other supporters during the Beaufort County Democratic Club South of the Broad's gathering at Dye's Gullah Fixin's restaurant on Hilton Head.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
For the three women who sat among a larger group of friends, Obama's swearing-in was the culmination of lifelong hopes -- hopes their parents told them to hold onto from the time they were girls -- that one day a racial minority would win the White House.
"My parents told me that change would come, that barriers would come down," Brooker said. "Today, it did."
"Minorities are in board rooms and running businesses," she continued. "This is the last barrier. It's been reached. What my parents told me about -- it's here."
Cordray said she felt a "sense of completeness" as Obama took the oath. "It empowered all of us," the Georgetown native said.
Takashima still had tears running down her face 10 minutes after the new president finished his inaugural speech.
"This means the world to me," she said. "After suffering prejudice and hatred in my life, this day has finally come."
The three women weren't the only ones moved by the historic inauguration.
Obama supporters at Tuesday's gathering watched the event on two televisions placed on opposite sides of the small Gullah restaurant. One was propped up on a yellow ladder, a microphone perched next to it to amplify the sound. Beneath the television hung a poster with an image of Obama's face and the word "hope."
People stood and wept and cheered during the swearing in and after the inaugural speech. They sang the national anthem along with the United States Navy Band Sea Chanters as though the Hilton Head gathering was actually taking place at the Capitol.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Just a few miles away, the next generation was also getting caught up in the patriotic mood. Students at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School participated in a group pledge of allegiance and worked on American-themed art projects.
First-graders drew pictures of the American flag. Second-graders created a mural of what the inaugural parade might look like.
Students and teachers wrote messages to the nation's 44th president on large pieces of paper that hung in the school's main hallway.
"Dear President Obama, do you have a baseball field in the White House," a boy named Colton wrote.
"Dear President Obama, are you going to btld (build) a dog house?" Sadje Hager asked.
Third-grader Brodie Kaufman wrote that he wanted Obama to provide everyone with the "best education."
As for his own aspirations, Brodie thinks being president of the United States would be "very amazing and fun every day." But he doesn't want to become the nation's leader when he grows up. He hopes to become governor.
"I think it would be pretty neat to help people, make new laws and be on TV sometimes and in the newspaper," he said. "As a governor, I wouldn't have to go around the world."
For Obama, he offered this advice: "I think he can try to be the best he can and help our country -- to help out, like, a lot of poor people -- so all the poor kids can go to school and people who need food can get it so we can end hunger."