Nelson Mandela left a lasting impression in the minds of many people in Rochester. Whether they met him or not, they are saddened by the news. YNN's Rose Eiklor spoke with some residents who say his death has left a hole that can never be filled.
"I think he represents for South Africans, but also the broader community, the kind of person that doesn't come along very often," local resident Nigel Maister said. "Somebody whose perspectives and ideals overpower the triumph of political realities,"
Nelson Mandela passed away on Thursday at age 95. Nigel Maister, who grew up in South Africa, says Mandela is a man no one will ever forget.
"I personally feel quite sucker punched by it. Even though I knew it was coming. It's a heart breaking event and I think it will leave a vacuum, a moral vacuum in the country," said Maister.
Maister never met Mandela but he says like many he felt a connection with him.
"I had no personal relationship with him. I never knew him. I never met him. But I will say watching him walk out a free man is one of my seminal memories of my early 20's," said Maister.
And for those who did get the chance to meet Nelson Mandela the news is just as heartbreaking.
"Its like knowing a friend. Its hard," local resident Lydia Lees. "It's not a stranger but somebody that you actually got to physically meet," said Lees.
Lydia Lees was invited to attend an event in Washington D.C. in 1994 called the Hunter Project for Africa. At this event she heard Mandela give a speech that changed her life. She wrote down his words on a small piece of paper.
"I am confident in a new spirit in Africa not beggars but a prosperous nation," said Lees.
Hearing Mandela speak changed Lees's life drastically. She says he inspired her to run for office in Connecticut that following year.
"I remember collapsing when I won because I kept thinking about him and overcoming obstacles. I am very grateful to him. I really am," said Lees.
But no matter if you met Mandela or just know of his strength, his legacy will live on.
"A figure head of enormous integrity, generosity, and love in a way," said Maister.
"He gave me strength, faith, hope," said Lees.
Rochester: Local Residents Remember Mandela's Legacy
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Lovely Warren is a a trailblazer in her own right, becoming Rochester's first female mayor. She said Nelson Mandela has been an inspiration and showed the world what true public service is all about.
"The lesson that I learned from him is that you have to put the good of the people and if you truly care about the success of the people, then you must be willing to put aside your personal differences and your personal feelings and pull people together so that you can move forward as a community and as a nation," said Warren.