For me, some of the most moving scenes around Barack Obama’s election and inauguration have been the elderly African Americans who say, “I never thought I’d live to see the day.”
Everyone talks about this being a historic event, but these people, I think, feel it down to their bones. They know what it means to make history because they’ve lived through so much history themselves–a lot of it quite brutal.
A few elders who’ve witnessed all too much history are featured in this story and video, about a group of Hurricane Katrina survivors over 80 who are coming to the inauguration from New Orleans.
And writing on the Huffington Post, John H. Tucker tells of some who are literally holding on for Obama’s inauguration.
Ninety-one-year-old Aline Johnson has been told by doctors she is dying of congestive heart failure. She rarely leaves the bed of her house in Queens, N.Y., and her voice creaks like a porch door as she speaks, flirting with the uppermost registers. Since being admitted into hospice care a year ago, she has never been given much longer to live, and now she is almost nothing but bone.
But Johnson has had reason to defy her prognosis. Having grown up in Columbia, Tenn., during an era when she couldn’t enter a restaurant because of her skin color, in a neighborhood where Ku Klux Klan members lived nearby, Johnson was resolved to hang on until last November, to witness Sen. Barack Obama become the country’s first black president-elect. Next Tuesday, she will watch him seal his place in history.
Johnson is a member of the country’s most vulnerable group of Obama supporters: the terminally ill and dying. …These determined men and women see Jan. 20 not simply as Inauguration Day, but as a finish line. Despite their cancer, or lung failure or other terminal maladies, they intend to keep breathing until the Oath of Office, sustaining the beat of a heart won over months ago by a pioneer offering hope.
I’ve got no illusions about Obama’s ability to singlehandedly rescue our battered country. But I’ve witnessed enough history myself to know a change for the better when I see one. More than that, I’m glad these old folks lived to see the day–and I’m glad I did, too.