CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Sonja Zipp saw Nelson Mandela on quite a few occasions.
"Everybody knows Madiba. There's nobody that has a presence like him. The whole stadium, the whole room, anywhere just lights up when he was in the room."
Zipp grew up during the apartheid era. She says it was such an ingrained way of life no one imagined it could end.
"Apartheid was my life. We went to white schools, and the beaches you had blacks on their own beach and white people on their own beach, and that's all we knew. We didn't know anything otherwise."
She was one of millions who spent hours in line to vote in the 1994 election.
"It was just crazy. It was very surreal on the day, and I think that only sunk in a little bit later. We didn't grasp what was happening on the day.
College of Charleston professor Simon Lewis, who spent almost a decade in South Africa as a young boy, says Mandela's election was a rebirth for South Africa.
"Everybody knew that that was it. That was the end of apartheid. You don't have the election for another four years, but everybody knew that was it. That was the end of apartheid. Something was actually going to replace that old, vile system."
Lewis saw Mandela in Tanzania shortly after his release from prison in 1990.