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N. Buffalo family thrilled by experience

Renatta Signorini
| Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Patty Shiring wanted her family to watch history being made.

With blankets and down coats to ward off the cold wind, the Shirings watched a new chapter be written yesterday in Washington.

In March, Patty Shiring of North Buffalo decided it would be a good year for her family to make the journey to the inauguration.

"I had no idea who was going to win. Either way I thought it would be something historic," she said.

Yesterday they watched as President Barack Obama recited the oath of office in front of more than 1 million people, according to an Associated Press estimate.

"The whole atmosphere is really, really joyous," Shiring said. "I haven't seen that for a long time down in this city."

Shiring contacted the office of Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia, in March about getting tickets. Later last year, she received word that two passes would be available for her family.

Patty Shiring's daughter Katie didn't want to get her hopes up once she learned of the opportunity.

"I couldn't believe it," Katie Shiring said.

Patty Shiring got busy booking accommodations at a condo near the Capitol building, where the inauguration ceremony was held, and making restaurant reservations, which came in handy to beat the crowds, she said.

Originally, the family had been promised two tickets. But when they arrived at the senator's office Monday to pick the passes up, two extras were provided so the whole family was able to watch together, she said.

The Shirings -- Patty and her husband Erick Sr. and two of their children, Katie and Erick Jr. -- left their condo at 5 a.m. Tuesday and made it to a security area 45 minutes later, Patty Shiring said.

At 7:30 a.m., they found a spot to stand in the section reserved for ticket holders. The family watched the ceremony and other television coverage on large screens set up throughout the area.

"It was freezing," Shiring said.

The crowd was peaceful up until the presidential motorcade was shown on the screens, she said. Once the ceremony began, there was chanting and swaying to the music, she said.

"It's unbelievable here," Katie Shiring said. "Everyone's so happy and so excited to witness this."

An interest in politics and the importance of voting is something Patty Shiring has made a point of instilling in her children.

"I love politics, that's my thing," she said.

That interest sometimes turned into heated discussions at the dinner table, she said, but that just meant Shiring accomplished a goal -- everyone having their own opinion.

Those differing ideas showed in November's presidential election, she said -- six of Shiring's immediate family members, including herself, voted for three different presidents. That group consisted of Patty, Erick Sr., Katie and Erick Jr., along with Shiring's older daughter and her husband, who were not able to attend yesterday's inauguration.

Katie Shiring is a senior in the nursing program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Erick Shiring Jr. is a seventh-grader at Kittanning Junior High.

While in Washington, the Shirings attended other inauguration-related events and had few worries for their safety. Even passers-by were eager to help with directions, Patty Shiring said.

"I am so surprised at how orderly everybody is," she said.

Patty Shiring has been sharing stories and pictures with friends, family and coworkers throughout the trip via e-mail. Some of the pictures show signs and banners supporting Obama's mantra of "change" and welcoming the new administration.

Katie Shiring is looking forward to a new president.

"It's undescribable the amount of pride that I feel for us and this day and age, that we're able to elect someone with such diversity," Katie Shiring said. "I think he'll make an excellent president."

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