It's a moment Gary Astridge calls surreal, as paralegals electronically filed his lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo shortly after a one-year period opened to file claims through the Child Victims Act.
- More than 100 people in Western New York filed claims on the first day for the one-year window for lawsuits no matter when alleged sexual abuse occurred
- Gary Astridge says he was abused by a now-deceased priest who worked at the former Cardinal Dougherty High School in Buffalo
- Astridge filed a lawsuit just after midnight Wednesday against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo
"When all my life I just thought it never had a shot, that this would never happen in New York state," Astridge said.
It was an emotional scene just after midnight for Astridge, decades after he says he was raped and abused over the course of years by a priest as a child in the 1960s in Buffalo.
"God, how did I get caught up in this, of all the people in the world?" he wondered.
Astridge views the lawsuit as an opportunity to stand up for himself after years of suffering in silence.
"Here I am like the older brother saying, 'I'm going to back you, I'm going to be there to take care of you when you were small.' And yeah, that's what I'm going to do," Astridge said as he fought back tears.
He's one of more than 100 people in Western New York seeking justice through the Child Victims Act who filed on Wednesday.
"We, as survivors, we've got control now. People are going to listen to us and people are going to now know what's been going on behind the scenes," Astridge said.
At the law offices of Steve Boyd and John Elmore, Astridge shared hugs with many other survivors including Michael Whalen, whose decision last year to share his story of abuse by a priest is credited by many with sparking the recent movement to shine light on abuse within the church.
"It was great, because he's the guy that kicked the door open in Buffalo," Astridge said.
Attorney Paul Barr expected the "deluge" of people coming forward on the look-back window's first day. Barr not only represents a number of survivors — but he too was abused by a clergy member as a child.
"I feel avenged. I feel finally that my voice is heard and I feel so honored and proud to be lending my own voice to other survivors who have suffered alone," Barr said.
That's a feeling Gary Astridge is still dealing with, but he's found a sense of community among others who've told their tragic tales and now can have their day of reckoning.
"If you're hurting, and you haven't done anything, it's important that you do because it's like, 'take control and get your life back,'" Astridge said.