In my post describing my decision to march in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, January 21, I emphasized that I could only tell you my story. While that is still true, it is also true that my story is largely one of being amazed at the movement created when hundreds of thousands of individuals made the choice to stand up for themselves and for each other. I was and am overcome at having been a part of that. Here’s the rest of that story.
The night before the march (which was also the night I found out I was actually going), I thought about making a sign, but, ever-practical and a little too concerned about having something else to carry, I opted to put masking tape on the back of my vest and write quotes* on it.
The next morning, I was relieved that I was able to get myself up early and drive the hour and a half to meet the bus. I was actually a little early, so I stopped at a gas station across the street to use the restroom. There were several other women there, and from their pink hats and feminist t-shirts, were obviously going to the march, too.
When I got back to my car, two women parked next to me were unknowingly blocking my way. When they realized I was waiting for them, they said, “Oh! We’re sorry. We’re taking up all the space!”
“That’s ok,” I responded. “That’s what we’re doing today.”
And take up space we did. First in individual cars, converging at two buses, where we excitedly greeted our fellow passengers, shared snacks, and attached “kind” heart pins from Penzey’s Spices to our clothing. Then on the two buses, converging with several hundred other buses and people walking on foot to metro stations. Then onto the metro platform, where the first train was too crowded to get on. Then onto our train, where our train driver honked and waved as she picked us up. Then through several metro stops, cheering new arrivals as we happily packed in tighter and tighter.
As we traveled, I checked my phone, and my facebook feed filled with pictures of solidarity marches in cities now just across the country, but around the world. Pictures not just from media outlets (whose aerial views were awe-inspiring), but from individuals posting their personal experiences–even if it meant a brief “stroll” down the street in Russia with feminist t-shirts hidden beneath clothing.
I still get chills writing about it. When we arrived at our metro stop, we had to wait on the train until there was enough room on the platform for us to disembark. Then, we waited several more minutes just to exit the metro station. People already held their signs high, and waves of cheers echoed through the underground tunnel. It was incredible.
It took us two hours to get to a point where we were remotely within hearing of the rally. We had to keep walking up parallel streets and then try to cut over on cross streets. Once we cut our way into the crowd, we could hardly move. And we hardly did, for over an hour. We passed the time talking to the slowly shifting crowd around us, taking bites of our sandwiches and snacks, and reading the signs around us. Some were funny, some were thought-provoking, some were purposefully shocking. The signs spoke to a multitude of issues, all centered on equal rights for all people and against words and actions that belittle people and their rights.
I don’t know what went on at the actual rally. We couldn’t see or hear it. I might try to go back and watch it sometime. But we weren’t there for the celebrities. We were there for each other.
I’m also still not sure what happened to the march. Some people said the official march was cancelled because of safety concerns (500,000+ people). But we were there to march, and march we did… even if at first that meant slowly shifting towards the march route until we could be funneled along with the main crowd.
It was definitely uncomfortable at times. Occasionally, standing for stretches of time stuck in a crowd, I’d push my cap down and try to be in my own little space for awhile. I spent hours trying to ignore my bladder, already making its ornery self known. People were getting restless and annoyed with others trying to make their way through the crowd when it was nearly impossible to move. We had trouble getting back to our metro station, and leaders from our bus texted to say they would have to leave us behind. We found another ride home, but it took several attempts to push our way onto the crowded trains to even get to that ride.
But at every point–regardless of the discomfort, the frustration, the worries–I was so glad to be there. While I would rather the events that sparked the movement not have happened at all, I was awed to witness and participate in a historic day when women and their supporters stood up to say, “This is not ok.”
How surreal is it that now, two weeks later, this worldwide march of millions is already old news? These two weeks have been filled with a barrage of assaults on rights, the Constitution, and our intelligence.
Yet, I still find hope in remembering the march and how I could literally feel the support of those around me. I found hope this past weekend weekend, marching with a thousand others at my own state’s capitol to express our solidarity with refugees and immigrants. I find hope in stories of lawyers dropping everything to rush to airports to aide Muslims being detained. I find hope in Acting Attorney General Sally Yates standing up against Trump’s refugee ban, even while she probably knew it meant she would lose her job. I find hope in Republican senators and representatives who will cross party lines to stand for what is right. I find hope in the National Parks Service refusing to be silent about scientific fact.
As distressed as I continue to be at the atrocities humanity is capable of justifying, I am inspired by those that continue to rise up against those atrocities. As Jon Stewart observed when he dropped by Colbert’s late show last week (speaking as Trump): “If we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight, and somehow come through this Presidency calamity-less, and Constitutionally partially intact, then I, Donald J. Trump, will have demonstrated the ‘greatness of America’… just not the way I thought I was gonna.”