By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Among the crowd of about 800,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to watch President Barack H. Obama be sworn into a second term of office were several Niagara Falls residents.
Mayor Paul Dyster was at the event, the culmination of a week-long trip to the capitol which included attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors' winter meeting and participating in an advocacy day organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an advocacy group co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Dyster, who attended Obama's first inauguration as well, said the day started off with great excitement, as he witnessed the president coming out of church to a roaring cheer. "The crowds are not as crushing as they were four years ago, but the sprit is still very high," Dyster said.
Dyster felt a particular pride as a New Yorker while watching U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., deliver the opening remarks of the event, he said.
"To see somebody that you think of, not just as a great political leader, but as a friend as the emcee of the inauguration is just special," Dyster said.
Dyster, who considers environmental issues important, was heartened by Obama's comments on climate change and green energy, especially with the wounds of Superstorm Sandy still very fresh for the people of the Northeast, he said.
"I thought it was very appropriate that he devoted significant time to that," he said. Dyster, who has lived in Washington, D.C., said inauguration day is special whether you agree with the policies of the president being sworn in or not.
"There is such an energy about this and such a feeling of pride in celebrating the peaceful transfer of power," Dyster said. "We can't take that for granted."
Marry Ann Hess, owner of Niagara Chocolates, had her chocolates served in the "Taste of New York" in the New York State Society of Washington's room, part of the Presidential Inaugural Gala on Sunday night.
Hess had tickets to the inauguration but was unable to make it to the event because of heavy traffic and closed roads, she said.
"It took nearly an hour for what might usually take 15 minutes," she said.
Hundreds of people came to New York's ballroom, including a number of U.S. senators, though Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. were not in attendance, Hess said.
"It was so exciting to be there," she said. "There was so many people it was hard to remember who was who."
Hess met many wonderful people and that she was treated very well in Washington, she said. Along with Hess's chocolates, Niagara Falls was also recognized in the form of a painting of the cataracts that hung in the U.S. Capitol room during the inaugural luncheon.
"It was such an honor to go and represent our area," Hess said.