WASHINGTON – This was the day they worked for and waited for, the day the pollsters and pundits and other people they don’t trust said would never come.
And Donald J. Trump’s supporters from Western New York reveled in the moment as their hero was inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president on Friday.
Braving occasional chilly rain showers and a security presence designed to keep Trump supporters and protesters safe and separated, the Trump supporters didn’t complain. Instead, amid the gray skies, they saw hope.
“It was wonderful,” said Debbie Kruger, 61, of Hamburg, who backed Trump for the presidency from the day he announced his campaign. “The people around us were so happy. There was no negativity. We were part of history.”
They were also part of a raucous crowd that included protesters – including some who got in Kruger’s face and told her she had no right to be there. But that didn’t bother her one bit.
“Everybody has the right to express their views,” she said. “Even with the protests and the ugliness, it can’t stop our happiness.”
That’s just the way that Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy felt, too.
One of the first party establishment people in the state to sign on and support Trump, Langworthy looked on from about 50 rows back from the podium.
Three years after he met with Trump in hopes of persuading him to run for governor, Langworthy said: “It’s really fulfilling to see that road end in the White House.”
Langworthy praised Trump’s speech, in which he vowed to upend the political order and restore the American economy .
“I thought it was outstanding,” he said. “He spelled out a bold vision where America comes first.”
Marina Woolcock, a longtime Republican activist from Amherst who is now retired and living in Florida, was equally impressed. She said she was surrounded by people in thrall to Trump and the promises he reiterated from the podium.
“People really believe he can put America on track again,” said Woolcock, 72. “We really need a different direction – and we need jobs.”
Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo and his contingent stood near the front of the crowd, surrounded by Trump supporters from other states.
“We talked to a lot of people about the types of patriots we are,” Lorigo said. “Everyone felt that America was now headed down a much better path, a traditional path, that will make us a stronger country…I could see how everyone there connected with what Trump says to them.”
Lorigo’s only complaint was one that thousands of inaugural visitors make every four years: that they have to arrive hours early and stand in place for all that time for their chance to witness history.
It isn’t an easy thing to do, and not surprisingly, Jennifer Caggiano of West Seneca felt exhausted and under the weather after the ceremony.
But it was worth all the trouble, she said.
“I thought it was so moving,” said Caggiano, 54. “Just to be there, at an inauguration, had to be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Of course, this was no normal inauguration. Trump’s views drew hordes of protesters.
Mary Ann Hess of Niagara Falls just missed an encounter with the worst of them: those that ransacked a Starbucks in downtown Washington.
Hess, her husband and friends left the National Mall and headed toward the subway after the inauguration, and she suggested that the group stop at a nearby Starbucks. But when they saw the crowds outside, they decided not to go in.
“We would have been in the middle of it,” said Hess, owner and founder of Niagara’s Honeymoon Sweets, a chocolate company that displayed its wares at the New York State Society’s Inaugural Gala Thursday night. “But we missed it all. We really had a great time.”
So did Carl P. Paladino, the lightning-rod Buffalo School Board member and longtime Trump supporter. But he, like many inaugural visitors, found the inaugural logistics to be a bit much.
He missed his subway stop and then got stuck behind huge crowds and tight security, so he never made it to his reserved seat.
Standing near where he was supposed to sit, Paladino loved what he heard from his friend, the new president.
“I think he gave hope to the families of majority of Americans and hope for those who have not had a chance to live the American dream,” he said. “It was a very proud moment for America.”
News staff reporter Robert J. McCarthy contributed to this report.