At 12:19 p.m. Tuesday, a grandmother in Rock Hill heard the words on her television and started to cry because she, a black woman, started this day more than 48 years ago.
The words had just poured forth from a black man who had been president for all of about 15 minutes. He was addressing the world, but it was clear the words were directed at her. President Barack Obama stated in what used to be segregated Washington, D.C., that 60 years ago, his father would not have been served in a local restaurant.
"I helped pave the way," Phyllis Thompson Hyatt said to herself in what used to be segregated Rock Hill but is no longer. "We helped do this."
Across her city, another woman sat in front of her television and heard the same words. Elsie White Springs could not wipe away the tears because they would not stop, because the words were aimed at her, too.
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"That's us," said Elsie White Springs. "Marching. Believing."
Neither woman knew that out in Newport, about 10 miles away, a man named the Rev. W.T. "Dub" Massey sat back in a recliner. He said loud — which is the Massey way, and sure was when he spent 30 days in jail for the crime of being black in 1961 — in response to the remark on television about the restaurant that would not have served blacks like him because blacks were not considered equal to whites all those years ago: "The ladies were right there with us. This is their day."
"Us" is the Friendship Nine. The nine men from Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill who demanded service at the all-white McCrory's lunch counter on Rock Hill's Main Street on Jan. 31, 1961. All were arrested, refused bail and spent a month on the chain gang.
They spurred on a nation.
Several female Friendship students -- Springs, Hyatt, Olivette McClurkin, Patricia Hinton Sims, Lucilla Wallace Reese and a couple of others -- marched with the men. In front, behind, alongside. For months. All were known as the "City Girls."
They were from Rock Hill, day students, thus the "City Girls" name that endures still.
"It was something we just had to do," said Sims. "I still see it in my mind. The people who taunted us. The hate in their faces."
The girls were not arrested in 1961 because the protest organizers didn't want ladies subjected to what certainly would be awful jail conditions. The guys rightfully became civil rights icons. The "City Girls," Hyatt and Springs among them, kept protesting.
Hyatt and Springs, who are first cousins, grew up in the same house on Simpson Street. In 1961, their mothers, who are sisters, both worked in the fabric store a few doors down from the lunch counter. Both mothers faced maybe losing jobs, or worse, from what their daughters were doing on the sidewalk and in the lunch counter.
Hyatt's mother, Willette Thompson, came outside the first marching day and asked her daughter just what she thought she was doing.
At age 83, Willette Thompson watched that inauguration of a black man Tuesday, too.
"That first day, I told Phyllis to go on home right quick," Willette Thompson recalled Tuesday. "I was scared for her safety, and I didn't want her to get in any trouble."
"I'm glad she didn't. I'm proud of my daughter. Carrie was always proud of Elsie, too."
Hyatt told her mother all those years ago that she just wanted "a cherry Coke at the counter, sipping it, just like the white people get to do."
Tuesday, on the day a black man was inaugurated president of all Americans, Hyatt said of 1961: "Gosh, I loved a cherry Coke then. I just wanted to enjoy it."
So she and her cousin and the other girls marched and sat and changed the world.
After Obama's speech ended Tuesday, Phyllis Hyatt and her first cousin Elsie Springs came to the restaurant that houses the old lunch counter where it all started. They had to walk on the sidewalk they had marched on back then, where they were hissed at, spit at, threatened.
On the stools at the counter in what is now Old Town Bistro are the names of the Friendship Nine men, whose actions changed the world, too.
Willie McCleod, David Williamson Jr., John Gaines, Thomas Gaither, Clarence Graham, W.T. Massey, the late Robert McCullough, James Wells, Mack Workman.
A pair of extra stools, too, for the religious men who helped with the organizing and support, and a 10th man who protested but didn't end up in jail.
When Hyatt and Springs walked in Tuesday, they were the only black people in the place. Yet, both strode in like queens. Each sat right down.
All the people working at the restaurant welcomed them with smiles and grace. This is 2009, and on TV a black president was smiling and waving.
Hyatt sat on the stool with Williamson's name on it. Springs sat on the stool with Graham's name on it. The stools spin like all great counter stools do. The women spun just a bit, yet it took all their restraint to keep from spinning with glee.
"I made a difference right here on this spot," Springs said. "I felt it when I watched Obama take the oath."
Hyatt talked of her grandson, who was at the inauguration in Washington. How her grandson could witness what she started.
"We helped make this possible," Hyatt said to her cousin. "Me. You. All the City Girls and those men. We were a family. Still are."
Hyatt looked at the display case before she left. It had a luscious looking strawberry cheesecake behind the glass. She chose not to stay seated and eat. She even said the words, "cherry Coke," quietly.
Because of people such as Phyllis Hyatt and Elsie Springs, black people can drink a cherry Coke, grow up to be president -- or anything else.