Monday, January 23, 2017

Looking Back on the Women's March in Washington DC

42 hours. 700 miles. 500,000 people.

I left home Saturday morning at 4:30am and drove to Charleston to take a flight to DC for the Women's March. A rabbit, a raccoon and a few deer were the only witnesses at that early hour; Larry was still tucked in and sleeping and lights were off in the neighbors' homes I passed.

I've been trying to get a handle on all that I saw and heard. What to tell you about? What propelled half a million people to converge on one city on a January day?

I knew there were a few other marches but was stunned to learn just how many places and how many people were marching at the same time, all across the world. Click here to see photos of many of them. My pictures are not nearly so good, some are fuzzy and dark, but I'll post them here anyway.

When we got to the DC airport it became immediately obvious that something very big, bigger than anyone had expected, was happening. People were pouring in, many of them--men and women alike--wearing pink hats. They were smiling and happy. Waves of cheers rose and fell in swells of voice.

We all herded toward the Metro trains. Somehow my friend Lindsay and I found space on one. We packed in like those pictures of people on Japanese trains, except that everyone was happy and excited. The transit employees were patient and helpful, maybe catching the infectious joy.

We disembarked, and crowded across platforms to the escalators. Cheers echoed up and down the Metro tunnels and signs began to be unfurled.

I wasn't too clear about where I was going, Lindsay went on to a different stop to meet her friends; I was looking for the groups coming in from West Virginia. I jumped on an escalator, figuring I could ask my way and eventually find the south lawn of the CApitol. That turned out to be a pretty good plan.

As I walked, I was one small drop in an ocean of humanity swelling and spilling down the roads and across lawns. I found the meeting place and waited.

The ocean of people continued passing by, thousands and thousands pouring in--and this was just one street, one area of the rally site. Signs were everywhere, cheers and chants rose and fell.

A man with a speaker preached about Jesus, a large group of young people chanted in unison: the young men shouting "Her Body. Her Choice" and the girls responding "My Body. My Choice." And everyone excited and laughing, polite, helping each other. A small group of Trump supporters chanted that Feminism is Rebellion. We agreed!

Finally some of the West Virginia group arrived and we began making our way to the main stage. We never got close.

Streets were closed;construction debris and barriers made it necessary to climb over chains, hop through coils of big cable, go around barriers of all kinds. It was an obstacle course but no one stopped. We just kept pressing forward.

Finally we came to a place we could stop, find places to sit on steps and walls, and listen to the large speakers. We could understand nothing except, "Whu Wanh-Huh" and loud cheers. Everyone was still smiling.

I talked with two ladies from the West coast--Seattle and San Diego. Then the crowd began to move again.  We thought the march was starting but no, it had been canceled we were told because every avenue, every space along its route was filled with people. It was then we began to hear that they thought there were half a million people of more at the event.

 I fell in step with a tall man named Ted who was originally from Athens, Ohio, not far from my home. We talked as we walked, sharing our excitement at being part of the day.

Eventually we got separated and I found myself near the Smithsonian museum, where a Jumbotron screen was showing what was going on at the main stage. I saw Whoopie, I think, and Michael Moore, Beyonce and Madonna on the screen but I was more interested in the people around me--all colors. sizes, sexes, nationalities, ages. Everyone being kind. Some signs I saw I didn't agree with, but many others I did. There was room for everyone and every point of view.

I looked for my granddaughter, but cell service went out with such huge demand and there was no way to find her. I looked for some of my many friends from all over the country who planned to be there but I never saw one person I knew. And it was fine. I talked to people from Canada, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and many other states. Everyone felt as I did--it was important to be there. Men were almost as numerous as women, there were as many young people as old. This was no single-race, single-agenda crowd.

 By this time it was late afternoon, my feet and legs were in misery from the walking and standing. I hadn't eaten or had anything to drink because the lines at the portable toilets told me not to--some people waited two hours to get into one. I found a row of toilets that looked like a reasonable 15-minute wait. As I stood in line I saw a Metro station. Yes it was time to go (in more ways than one!).

The lady in front of me pulled up the Metro map and I took a photo of the map with my phone so I could be sure to get on the right color line.

There was no paper in the toilet but I was prepared--the pre-march literature had told us to bring our own. I passed what I had left to the next lady in line and headed for the train.

His sign reads "Immigrants get the job done"
The lines were long, long ,long but somehow the one I got in moved very quickly. I asked questions of people and Metro staff to be absolutely sure I was on the right train. I was truly the country mouse in the city!

This time there was no chanting, just excited, euphoric conversations, people so very pleased to have been there, to have seen this huge, peaceful gathering, to have made a statement. Word began to spread of the marches around the world. My phone died and I mentioned to my seatmate, a Vietnamese woman about my age, that I might have a hard time finding my sister, who was to pick me up when I got to the station. When she heard that my sister lived in her same town, she offered to give me a ride, even though there were already 5 people in her small car. I was touched but told her I'd be fine. As I left the station I saw my sister pull up. Perfect timing.

I have been trying to process all of this, find out why I felt so affirmed. Perhaps it was because of the many people who said, we need to do this. We need to speak up. We need to be heard. We need to act. I don't know. The other day I wrote about why I was going. I didn't expect to come home with more reasons as to why I was there.

I ached all over by the end. Feet, hips, knees. My voice was and my nose was running. I was hungry and thirsty and completely happy and satisfied. I had done it. I had gone to the march, I had joined my voice with thousands of others expressing their opinions in this glorious free country.

I was one small witness to history.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Joy@aVintageGreen said...

Thank you Sue for writing, so necessary. Hugs.

Michelle said...

What an awesome even to attend. My daughter and I have had many conversations about this march. So important for women everywhere.

Boud said...

I've been hoping you would check back in! Thankyou for going! I'm not up to crowds and traveling but I knitted a pussyhat and shipped it to the march. Nearest I could get, but there in spirit! And I had blogged about the hat and the movement ahead of time to help spread the word.

Next we need to stay active, keep up the pressure. Ijoined Indivisible for a start. And I now start the day with messages to legislators and committee members on current issues, need to do this routinely.

Les Schaffer said...

Great Account, Susanna. Kathy and I must have been right behind you a couple of times 'cause we saw some of the very same people, signs and sights. We solved the bathroom problem by going in the Mall entrance to the Air and Space Museum where thy had great bathrooms, water, comfy seats for a rest, snacks and best of all friendly, cooperative personnel. When the lines at one of the Women's bathrooms became long, some of the men urged women to use the Men's Room, which was lovingly shared for the rest of the afternoon. When one of the Police started ordering the women out of the Men's Room, they refused, the men supported them and what looked like a stalemate was broken when one person yelled out "Hey, I'm Trans!" The cop raised his arms in surrender and good naturedly told us, and his fellow cops, that he wasn't going to mess with that and walked away. This sums up the day about as well as anything. Government, men, women and nature all working together in harmony.
Les Schaffer

Bob Reiser said...

Thanks Sue --

Thanks for the narrative and the pictures -- A powerful tale told from the inside!

Imagine if there had been writers and iphones present at the Storming of the Bastile, or the ringing of the Liberty Bell!

Bob Reiser


Unknown said...

thanks for sharing - like being there with you

Anonymous said...

Just so proud of you !! It seems as if I'm the only one here in my NE corner of Tenn who feels that way with the exception of two or three .(Sadly I've come to the conclusion if one has to " explain / defend " why one felt the need to be at a march...well, it's just doesn't seem to resonate. ) Wish I could have just been able to went to our " local " 60plus miles away ....but there in spirit . So glad you were able to go and thankful for your sharing . One of my former students went and I'm so proud of her !! (I have a blogger fb friend in Alaska , and I was so impressed with their local marches in bitter temps !) signing in anonymously ....( Isnt THAT pathetic but the local tone on fb is "overwhelming" in my little town ....tempers, emotions , comments ...

Quinn said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Sue! I was thinking of you on Saturday, as I was following and retweeting image after image from all over the US and around the globe. Another blogging friend wrote my name on her arm and sent a photograph of "me" there in DC, and it about made me cry with joy.

Granny Sue said...

Quinn, I saw many people carrying names on placards, on their arms, etc. I wish I had thought of it! At least 50 of my friends wanted to go but could not for various reasons. Think if everyone who wanted to be there had been able to be at one of the marches!

I will go again, for sure. This is too important not to support however we can. You did your part :)

Granny Sue said...

I am sorry I missed you, Les! I knew so many people who were there, somewhere. We need to keep it up, let this government know we will not be silent. It's our right and duty.

Granny Sue said...

To Unknown: I understand your feelings and your caution. I too live in a place where there are some with little tolerance for anyone who did not vote for this president. But fortunately there is a mix, at least in corner of WV, of varying views. It is not my usual style to step out publicly like this on personal views but it's just too important this time.

Be safe my friend, and do what you can.

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