A memorable day
Last Sunday, my daughter Sarah and I took part in the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, and I bring back a firsthand account of a spectacular event – a day that gave me a glimmer of hope I’ve not felt in way too long!
First off, the organization was impressive, and the crowd was vast. It was a hospitable day, cool and overcast. Celebration was in the air. As much as the media and the Park Police resisted estimating the numbers, I can attest that the throng was densely packed all the way from the old Smithsonian and Washington Monument clear up to the Capitol as far as the eye could see. I could easily envision seven or eight sold-out University of Michigan stadiums (a stadium I know seats 105,000) just there on the mall. And then there were additional crowds all along the edges. The planners, whose volunteers did block-by-block counts, have estimated the attendance at 1.15 million.
From any place on the mall you could see and hear the pre-march speakers on monster screens. Around noon, the whole mass began to “march” a prescribed route, like one giant organism. As we moved forward ever so slowly, we mingled. The sheer range of types was phenomenal: An infinite variety of human physiognomy, in every imaginable color. The whole was strikingly multigenerational, from a little old lady using her wheelchair as a walker down to the infant at its mother’s breast. Every type of sexual and political party persuasion was there – yes, many Republicans, and men in abundance.
I’m not sure how to describe the palpable show of commitment to idea. It was “pro-choice,” of course, that was the theme, but it felt much bigger, with allusions to all the attendant legal, social, and global issues that touch women’s lives. The organizers provided the ready-made material – signs, posters, buttons, the works. But in addition, the personal signage was utterly captivating. People had clearly come geared up to express themselves, from the in-your-face “The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own” to the more lofty “Vote Like Your Life Depends on It.”
Around 2 p.m., Sarah and I completed the course and broke off to head for the Corcoran Gallery. This took us past the White House and I have to say this brought an unexpectedly painful moment; I’d not been by there since 9/11. Our president’s house now sits at a great distance, and it looked so gray and gloomy, so empty (he was at Camp David), and so very un-white. I felt overcome by a real sadness. I wanted to take Sarah’s picture next to the one bright spot, a glowing bed of Washington spring tulips embedded among the guards standing there with their weapons, but she declined, saying, “No, we’ll have to come back another day when someone else is living there.”
We fished around for a way through to 17th Street only to learn that the Corcoran was closed for the day. So we walked the full way back to Union Station, rejoining the now dwindling crowd, yet still vibrating with the inspiration of a truly memorable day.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.