March For Our Lives
I have been writing all day. I've written about twenty three pages in my journal today and I'm a little discombobulated. That's probably the longest journal entry I've ever written about one day. I would love to share all twenty three pages but frankly there isn't time for that and I'm sure no one wants to read twenty-three pages of my perspective. It would be impossible to share everything that happened that day in my journal and on the blog. I'm going to do the best that I can though and I've written some notes about what I want to share.
A week ago I got an unexpected call from Leah. I think I was busy doing homework but I answered the phone and we got to talk for a few minutes. After a while she asked me if I wanted to go to the March For Our Lives protest on Saturday. I immediately said yes, without thinking. I wasn't able to go the Women's March for multiple reasons but I knew I could come to this one. She told me that she would pick me up early on Saturday morning and we would go to DC. It was my job to pack, plan and try to get us good parking in DC. Leah potentially wanted to take the metro but we both knew that it was going to be insanely busy and crowded. Luckily there are some amazing apps and we were able to get really good parking. The night before was a little bit nerve wracking because I had never been to a protest before. Leah had and we tried to prepare for the worst on the way there. We wrote each other's phone numbers on our arms, we found a place to meet if we got separated and if we had to run we would separate. Nothing happened that day but we felt that it was important to prepare if worse came to worse.
We got to DC with absolutely no traffic. How? I have no idea. Leah did end up missing a turn and maybe that helped us in the long run? We got to the parking garage, got a good spot and started walking to the march. While we were walking Leah asked,
"Is that the White House?"
There was a building not far from us. Since there is normally a bunch of people in front of the white house I said no. Then we realized that it was the White House and we started dying of laughter. That became a joke throughout the rest of the day. There were people there taking pictures of themselves, with their signs in front of the white house.
After we took our pictures we started to walk to the march. Since I'm terrible with directions Leah was the one guiding the way. I trusted her so I wasn't paying that much attention. Eventually, a nice old lady from Boston informed us that we were going the wrong way. After that we started to follow her until we figured out where we were going. Then the crowd became bigger and we knew we were going the right way.
On the way to the march we saw a square for a LGBT activist group. I asked Leah if we could stop and we took a lot of photos.
There was a part of the square where they paid tribute to the Pulse Nightclub shooting. It had pictures of the victims and a little bit about them. I had no idea that Leah took this picture but I'm glad she did. This picture will forever carry a lot of weight for me.
After a few minutes of being there we started making our way to the march. I cannot believe how many people were actually there. At the same time everyone was incredibly nice and kind. Everyone was taking photos of signs, yelling and overall it was positive. There was only one anti protest but it was for Planned Parenthood. Needless to say, no one stopped to talk or listen. There were also people on the side helping people to register to vote. It was truly beautiful.
As we kept walking it became so crowded that we couldn't walk anymore. Leah was absolutely ruthless though. I have never met someone who wanted to see a stage so bad. She grabbed me hand and practically pulled me through the crowd. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the entire stage but we got very close. It was also a miracle that we could hear and see a monitor. It was about three hours until the rally started so we became friendly with others. We read signs to each other, talked about where we were from and it was really nice. It was nice to distract ourselves from the fact we would be standing there for three hours. One moment that will always stick with me came from a father and his daughter. She was smaller than everyone else and obviously couldn't see anything but legs.
"I'm going to put you on my shoulders," he told her. "You need to see this. You need to see what these people are fighting for and how their fighting for you."
It was one of the many moments that I teared up because this was a movement that was bigger than all of us but we came fighting anyway. We came because even though we knew change is difficult to obtain we were going to fight for it.
Thanks to Leah's bobbing, weaving and pulling we got very close to the stage.
The police officers working the event were beyond nice and helpful. They helped us get to where we needed to get. They also handed out bottles of water to anyone who wanted it the entire event. They also asked how we were doing throughout the event.
The way the event worked was they would have a singer and then a speaker. Nearing the end of the event people started to get tired. One of the survivors from Parkland said they had a special guest. She brought a little girl on stage and everyone seemed kind of confused. Then she said,
"My name is Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Correta Scott King."
Everyone started screaming. It was somewhat funny because everyone knew who was going to talk and no one was expecting someone like that to show up.We didn't take a lot of photos when the students were speaking because we wanted to listen to them. At the same time every speaker was mesmerizing. It was hard to believe that they were still in high school. It was hard to believe that a few years ago I was their age. Every speech was passionate and beautiful. We definitely cried as the speakers recounted stories about losing people they loved. Not just in the Parkland shooting but Newton and gun related incidents. I can share all of them but these were some of my favorites.
Emma was the last speaker and definitely the most anticipated. She's the one that is credited with starting this movement. She's been outspoken and loud from the very beginning. She's also the one who is most verbally attacked by adults because of it. She carries a huge presence and personality. Her speech was absolutely beautiful and most likely had everyone crying. She spoke at first and then became completely silent. She stood there in total silence for six minutes and twenty seconds, the amount of time the Parkland shooting was. There was a dry eye there. These kids are our future and I couldn't be more proud. This will also be the first election they can vote in and I haven't been this positive about politics in a while.
When the march ended we had been standing for about seven hours straight. I wish that I was joking. My left knew was numb to say the least. We started to walk to try and find some place to eat. Everything seemed packed or overpriced so we went to McDonald's which was also overpriced. I don't think we had ever been more glad to sit and eat. Nearing the end I got up to go to the bathroom and there was line. This man comes up to stand next to me. He starts making small talk and asked if I went to the march. I told him that I did and we talked about what we liked. I believe that he was from Newton Connecticut. He told me that he gave his shirt to a Parkland student because he liked the shirt. That would explain why he was wearing a gray undershirt.
"It was probably one of the best things that I'll ever do," he said. "It made me feel so good."
Then he went onto say,
"You're generation gives me hope, you're going to save us. Thank you."
I'll never see that man again but he had no idea how much his words meant to me. It was also the perfect way to end the day. Leah and I started to walk back to the parking garage and we passed the Trump Hotel. We saw that people were putting their signs in front of the hotel and we decided to do the same. It was the same hotel that Swag and I had passed a few months earlier. We were hot, starving and trying to get something to eat. We tried to find the building that we had eaten at before. They turned it into the hotel and I was pissed. I can't say that I'm still not over it. The hotel was blocked off, for obvious reasons. Regardless, we put our signs there.
We stayed there for a few more minutes before going back to the car. Luckily on the way back we didn't experience any traffic. We got home and words can't describe what I was feeling. It was the first time in the wake of tragedy in this country that I felt this sense of hope. The march, the students, the people that came give me hope. They tell me that tomorrow is going to be better and tomorrow we keep fighting