BUFFALO — Hundreds of children stood outside their school on a sunny, but chilly Tuesday, some clasping American flags, hoping for a glimpse of their country's president.
Excitement swelled as the motorcade carrying President Joe Biden approached. The children and their teachers chanted: "USA! USA!" Some of them spotted a wave from First Lady Jill Biden.
Then they were gone.
The children filed back inside their school, Stanley Makowski Early Childhood, for a day of instruction. The president and his entourage continued on to the Delavan Grider Community Center, where they met with families, first responders and law enforcement officials in the wake of a mass shooting that left 10 people dead, all of whom were Black.
And blocks from the school, outside the Tops Friendly Market where the gunman opened fire Saturday, people continued to gather in hopes of seeing the president, not realizing he already came and went.
After arriving in Buffalo in the morning, the Bidens had made a brief stop at the scene, placing flowers at a makeshift memorial for the shooting victims across from the store. Biden later gave an emotional speech addressing the shooting.
But for some of those who had come to the Jefferson Ave. neighborhood to see the president, this was not the first time they've felt the sting of being left behind.
Sheik H Miah, 43, brought his 6-year-old son, Sheik Youssef, to wait at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Eaton Street. Miah said it was important for them to be there, but he was disappointed the president didn’t stay longer. He watched the motorcade pass on Facebook live.
At the same intersection, Dierdre Roeer and her son Rascheed also waited for the president. They live in the neighborhood; Deirdre had been caught in traffic near Tops on Saturday and didn't learn about the shooting until she saw it on the news two hours later.
Roeer wanted Biden to address the theory, common in the community, that the gunman did not act alone, and that anyone else involved would be found.
“I hope they stop talking about that guy acting alone, because there’s no way that somebody from Binghamton knew anything about this area. He did not act alone,” she said.
She was hoping for answers from the president. When she heard from others that he wouldn't be speaking during his stop at Tops — that, in fact, he had already departed —she and her son left, too.
Webster Wiggins, who is from Buffalo, said he wished the president had stayed longer at the scene of the shooting.
"I know he's a busy, busy man, but it would've been nice," he said. "It's the president. He's going to say what he says. I hope he says the right thing. I have faith in him."
But for Rara Watson, Biden's visit was a hindrance, not a balm. Since the shooting, Watson and others have been helping to distribute toiletries and other items to community members. They set up in the parking lot of the nearby Family Dollar and pass the items out each day.
Ahead of Biden’s arrival, Watson said, they were told that they would have to pack up because the distribution was a “security issue.”
“They said we couldn’t hand out food or nothing today until he left,” she said. “Just for him to drive by. And they told us that he was going to come talk to us and he didn’t. They said that he was going to come to this parking lot to stand here and talk to us and shake everybody’s hand. It’s bull---t."
Nothing will come from this visit, she said.
“Nothing, trust me," she said. "It’s the same old, same old.”
Charles German and his wife came out Tuesday to leave flowers at the memorial near the Tops. German knew two of the victims, Margus Morrison and Ruth Whitfield. He grew up with Morrison, went to school together and taught his daughter to play basketball through German's organization.
"If (Biden) came or not, it wouldn't have mattered because it's not about him," he said. "It's not about all these top officials that we know and deal with on a low, low basis. We hardly see them unless it's election time. It's about the people now. It's not about them."
Adria R. Walker is the Upstate New York storytelling reporter for the USA Today Network's New York State Team. Follow her on Twitter at @adriawalkr or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This reporting is made possible by readers like you.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: President Biden Buffalo shooting scene visit missed by some residents