I didn't make a sign. I wanted to be free of having to carry anything around all day. Maybe that makes me lame, but so be it. I wore a Wonder Woman t-shirt, tossed on my Wonder Woman undies, slid on my aging disgracefully bracelet, and stamped up a NASTY necklace which I assembled right before I left. I had a satin sash from the pre-march meeting I attended in PA. That was the entirety of my visual statement.
I got up at 4 am, got dressed, got my dogs settled in their crates, and drove through pea soup thick fog on pitch black country roads to meet the bus an hour away. I could not see more than five to ten feet of road and there was no center line. There are no street lights here. It was a white knuckle express and I had to do a lot of deep breathing. The fog was so bad, I briefly considered turning around and going home. I stayed the course in spite of my better judgment. My night vision is not so great on a clear night, but once I hit the roads with streetlights it got better.
I did not know anyone on my bus. I had a plan to meet my daughter in DC, but we knew that it might not work out due to the size of the crowds. Crowds are not my thing, so the thought of being alone in a huge crowd of people had me more than a little freaked out. Plus, a lot of well meaning folks told me to be safe, which made me worry about being unsafe. I am a world class worrier. I am also a grown ass woman, so I let that shit go. I had the names of over 130 people in my bag who were there with me in spirit because they could not attend. So in that sense, I was not alone and it helped me feel less nervous. Thank you to every one of those 130 people, you have no idea how much you carried me.
We took a three hour drive down the highway from PA to Maryland, and passed bus after bus filled with people headed to the march. Women and men and children were on those buses, people of every color, faith, political party, income level, and ethnic background. We waved and shared signs! Here we go! As we got closer we passed parking lots at Metro stations filled with buses and snaking lines of people waiting to get on trains. We had to switch our drop off point because our original station was full. The bus cheered! YES!!!!
We were dropped off in Landover, Maryland at the Metro Station. There were a host of other buses dropping people off for the march. The platform at the station was packed. I stepped off of the escalator, walked a few steps, and took a deep breath, before I had a chance to walk forward a women ran up to me, grabbed my arm, and dug her fingers into it. She pulled me hard and started yelling at everyone, "Get the hell out of the way of the escalator!" Mind you, I was not in the way of the escalator. I was gobsmacked. She kept digging her fingers into my arm and it hurt. I stared her down and said in a strong voice, "Get your hand off of my arm. That is not okay." She released my arm and stomped off continuing to yell at everyone. This was my ONLY bad experience of the day. The Metro cop on the platform called me over and told me to take the train on the opposite side because it was going to hit two stops and turn around and come back. I took his advice, which meant I got a seat on the train. Take that, arm grabbing lady still standing on the platform.
As we hit more stops the train became packed with people. A woman and her husband stood in front of me and I beckoned to her to sit down next to me. I probably should have let him sit down, in retrospect. Bad form, note to self. He didn't seem to mind. We chatted about the march and why we were going. She told me she was an artist and a knitter. Her name is Lynda Mitic, you can visit her website to see some of her art. We talked about crafting. Then she reached into her bag and pulled out a pink hat and asked if I would like to wear it to the march. Now I'm going to be honest here, I was not fully invested in the pink hat idea. I love the idea of craftivism, but my concern was that he might think this march was about him if we all wore "pussy hats." The message I wanted to send was to all of the branches of our government and society at large. Still, this random act of kindness from a stranger who handmade this hat with the intention of giving it away was so beautiful how could I say no? So, yes, I wore a pink pussy hat. It was an honor. If that offends people, so be it. Just breathing offends some people.
It became so hot in the train car that a woman standing in front of us started to faint. I got up and gave her my seat. I have severe asthma, and the lack of oxygen in the train car was starting to affect me too. Everyone was feeling the heat. Two of the Metro stations in DC were so full they could not allow us to stop. When we finally stopped, the doors stayed shut for another few minutes before they could let us out. Inhale, exhale, repeat. The doors finally swung open we merged into a sea of people. I had been texting back and forth with my daughter and it was clear we would not be able to meet. There were two nice ladies in the crowd next to me and we started chatting. I asked if I could spend the day with them and they said yes. I am a believer in connecting with people, you don't have to be alone in a crowd.
We walked up a packed escalator. They had to turn the escalators off due to the volume of people. As we hit the street it was overwhelming. There were people everywhere. People of every age, every color, every sexual orientation, every faith, a sea of people were coming together smiling, energized, ready to do something physical to combat their collective sadness. It was incredible. The energy was palpable.
A woman fell on a concrete divider and separated her shoulder blade. She was surrounded by people lifting her up and offering help. The kindness and connection and feeling of common purpose was electrifying. Every cell in my body felt alive. This was an affirmation, but it was also a call to forward motion. These were people who are engaged, aware, and contrary to the tweets of our new president, these were people who voted and who intend to vote in the mid-terms and encourage others to do the same. This was not a group of people whining or bitching, this was a group of people rising up and demanding to be heard.
I don't think anyone who marched believed this one day was going to magically fix anything. That wasn't the point. Still, coming together and knowing we were not alone helped to combat the feeling of isolation and helplessness. This was a call to action. This was a moment destined to become a movement.
Patty, Caroline, and I began our epic journey in search of a bathroom. There was a shortage on the edges of the march and it meant many people standing in long lines and waiting up to an hour to use the few port-o-potties. We asked a police officer for assistance and he sent us to L'Enfant Plaza. We waited in line for only thirty minutes. They had run out of toilet paper, but I had two moist towelettes which I shared with my new friends. The woman in front of me in line had a pack of baby wipes she offered to everyone in line around her. She was black, I was white, my new friends were gay, the people around us were Hispanic, African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, young, old, male and female. I am sharing this because I think it's important to note that the entire experience was of diversity seeking unity. We were in this thing together, even in the bathroom line. Strangers became immediate friends. Our bathroom journey was a weirdly wonderful experience, and a harbinger of a weirdly wonderful day to follow.
There were rumors of a port-o-potty conspiracy. I can't deny or confirm. I was sent a photo from a fellow marcher of a huge bank of potties locked behind a fence from the Inauguration from a fellow marcher. Each of them had a tiny lock. Seemed strange. Regardless, there weren't enough bathrooms where we and a huge crowd of people were for most of the day but we made do. Pun not intended.
They had huge jumbotrons with banks of speakers set up along the march route, it was difficult for most people to see the screens or hear through the speakers. You can see one of the screens at the top right of the photo above. We caught snippets of speeches and songs. We were able to climb up on a concrete base to see over the crowds. The march was supposed to start at 1:15, but the volume of people standing in the streets for the entire stretch of the route meant they had to improvise. Every side street was filled with people, I have never seen this many people in one place except during the Atlanta Olympics. It was awe inspiring! There were so many creative signs, hats, outfits, banners, so much positivity and purpose!
We couldn't march the full route from start to finish due to the volume of people, so they canceled that plan. The crowd got restless and at around 3:00 pm the folks in front of L'Enfant plaza started marching. It was damp, and chilly, and the hour spent standing and straining to see the Jumbotron made my muscles begin to cramp. Minor inconveniences, once we started marching we were all being carried by the energy of the crowd. People lined the streets along the route, marchers called and responded chants. "Tell me what democracy looks like!" "This is what democracy looks like!"
We passed a second jumbotron as Madonna was singing. The crowd burst into song and dance. I didn't hear her speech until I got home, and I am going to refrain from commenting on the content. Madonna has always been controversial, and I am a strong supporter of First Amendment Rights. If you don't like what someone says, say something different. People like to twist words to suit agendas, that's all I am going to say about that. Context matters.
We broke out of the crowd at the Washington Monument. I had to get to the Metro by 4:30 to get back to my bus in time due to the volume of riders and the length of the lines. Patty and Caroline were hungry and ready to sit down. We snapped a few pics, and they walked me to the end of the line for the Metro. What an extraordinary day we shared, how lucky was I to meet two kick ass warrior women who let me join them?
In the sea of confusion and people, I took the wrong Metro train, so it was good that I left early. I have a pain issue with my left foot, which was throbbing. My legs were cramped, my head was pounding, I was exhausted, dehydrated, and hungry. For a moment I was worried I'd miss the bus. These are all first world problems, so let me take a moment to be real. This was no big deal. This was one march, one day, no hoses or batons or arrests or counter protests or bricks or insults or anything except one lame ass woman who grabbed my arm too hard. I woke up in a warm bed and I was going home to that same warm bed. My minor discomfort drove home the real sacrifices made by people before me who risked far more and experienced far more resistance in the process.
I thought of the people who were torn from their homes, forced into the bowels of boats, and sold into slavery, of how hard they fought for their freedom only to be beaten back down and forced to fight further for years, of the women who marched for voting rights, of the workers who fought for labor rights, of the people who fought for civil rights, the men and women who fought for gay rights, of the women who fought for the ERA, of people who fought to protect the environment, of parents who fought for their handicapped children to be recognized and respected, of the protestors who fought the war machine, of the Black Lives Matter protestors still fighting for the right to be free from systemic violence, of the countless people who have sacrificed their comfort for the greater good. None of these things came easily or without great sacrifice and some of them still have yet to come to fruition.
I thought of the people who left the lives they knew behind and boarded boats to come to a strange new world and start anew with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and the hope of a better life. I thought of the Native Americans who lived here first, before the white man came, slaughtered them, stole their land and drove them on to reservations. I thought about the refugees who have survived things we cannot fathom who came here to start fresh and now live in fear of becoming refugees again. I thought of the children brought here by parents longing to give them opportunity who have spent most of their lives in America and are now afraid of being deported to countries in which they have never lived. I thought about all of these people, their stories, their sacrifices, and how small and insignificant my life is in comparison.
There is so much we take for granted. There are so many freedoms we have because other people put their asses on the line. I don't forget that for a moment. I don't need a participation badge or a pat on the head or anything at all for putting on a pink hat and going to a march. That was the very least I could do. I showed up, but I intend to keep showing up. There is far more work to be done. There is far too much at stake.
We had a three hour bus ride home, and the hour drive that followed was again spent white knuckled in pea soup fog. By the time I got home I felt like my entire body was a solid cramp. I had a flurry of texts and emails to answer and my dogs were beyond excited to see me. Once we all settled down, I watched footage on MSNBC. Holy shit. I had no idea. All day we talked about how it was hard to quantify the numbers or grasp the scope of things being in it. Seeing the massive amounts of people all over the country and around the world marching together sent shivers down my spine. We knew it was big, but we didn't know it was this big. That was it, the release, a huge exhale. I cried like a baby, sobbing with happiness and sorrow and hope and disbelief. Just being part of
That's some serious magic, but it's just the beginning.
I spent the next day on the couch with a migraine and sour stomach. Again, small potatoes compared to the significant sacrifices of people before me. My social media pages were filled with pictures of people marching, of positive messages, of supportive comments, and of good stuff. Other folks had far less positive reactions from friends, family, and connections. I got two passive aggressive comments from people whom I don't really know, and decided to disconnect from them. I don't have time for that crap anymore. I also refused to share any posts or articles that reflected negativity, I don't wish to give that even a moment of my energy. Sharing that stuff gives it power that it does not deserve. The postulation that this was a bunch of women whining is ridiculous and honestly, if that's what some miserable people wish to believe that is their choice. We marched for them, too, and we will continue to fight for the rights of EVERYONE to be treated equally.
And that brings us back to today, and the continued processing of what happened and why it matters and how to be a positive part of what is to come. I don't know yet. I am a 53 year old middle class college educated feminist white woman. I will leave that there. I have been told to sit down and shut up for as long as I can remember. I am not going to sit down or shut up ever again. I intend to stand up, speak out, and be counted. I cannot speak for other people who have different experiences, but I will listen and find common purpose. I will speak my truth. I believe that we all need to stand up and speak out while we still can. I firmly believe this. Like the Whos down in Whoville, we need every single voice. We are all in this together, and that means we are going to have to keep marching bravely forward and listening to each other while we go.
There you are, my experience, my story. One of millions of stories, each unique, each powerful, each rich with resonance. Every one of us walks a unique path through life and no two of us will ever experience the same things in the same way. That is what makes the human experience meaningful. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something to offer to the world. Everyone should have equal access, equal opportunity, equal freedom, equal justice, and equal rights to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
E Pluribus Unum, of many, one.
Together, we can work to make that happen.