Lorraine Hughes wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
“This is the place to be,” said the 83-“and a half”-year-old Buffalo woman, who dabbed at her eyes with a tissue Monday as she stared admiringly at President Obama on a big-screen TV.
“This is such a wonderful thing to happen in my lifetime,” she said of the Inauguration of the country’s first African-American president for his second term.
Hughes was one of about 40 people, ranging in age from 6 to 92, mostly African-American, but some white, too, who gathered in the second-floor parish hall of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church near Erie County Medical Center on Buffalo’s East Side to mark the historic occasion.
Just as the church did four years ago when Obama first took the oath of office, St. Philip’s held a community celebration to allow church members and others to share the moment together.
The Inauguration party took on extra significance for its participants because it took place on the day the nation was also observing Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
“This is a day when we can claim the dream,” said the Rev. Gloria E.E. Payne-Carter, the rector of the church, referring to the slain civil rights leader’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech, which was recited to the crowd by a church member.
The program for the day at St. Philip’s included morning prayers, a panel of young people talking about their hopes for the future and a celebration Mass in the sanctuary led by the Rev. R. William Franklin, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.
Bruce Austin, of Buffalo, made sure to bring his three children – James, 10; Andrew,7; and Maria, 6 – to the St. Philip’s event .
Andrew and his siblings sat quietly together in the front row as they gazed up at the screen to see Obama giving his Inauguration speech.
“It was great when he was talking,” said the boy, who dreams of becoming a pilot when he grows up.
Roosevelt Samuel, of the Town of Tonawanda, said he was just as excited as he was the first time around when Obama took office – if not more so.
“Oh my gosh,” said Samuel, who is 83. “It means a lot.”
Lyne Westbrook, a home health care aide and author, said she came to her church to watch the inaugural festivities because she “wanted to have the feeling and the energy of everyone here.”
The event was organized by Patrick Cray, a member of the church who is also a retired Buffalo police officer.
He was gratified to see the wide array of people who came to participate.
“I have a duty,” he said, explaining why he wanted to be a part of the celebration. “It’s my duty to be here.”