I finally crawled into bed with the clock closing in on three in the morning. I’d set my alarm for only a couple hours in the near future so that I’d have time to get to the Rally Bus leaving from my small town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia at 6:55. I wanted to arrive early to sit with a couple close female friends and my 59-year old mother. We came prepared with our charged cameras, snack-filled fanny packs, and child-like excitement — as if we were going to an amusement park.
The drive went by quickly as the dark skies gave way to the eager morning light. We shared the highway with countless buses, all heading in the same direction with the same destination with the same amount of determination.
“Is this what it feels like to be growing up?” I thought, as I remembered that my past feelings of excitement were linked to spontaneous adventures, late nights with friends or irresponsible decision-making.
No, this is what it feels like to be a part of a something big.
The day began as masses of women, men and children of all backgrounds topped with pink pussy hats filed out of the buses; some carried homemade signs with messages of hope, resistance, empowerment and unwavering love. Others carried ones of concern, disapproval and undeniable fear.
Their messages covered topics relating to women and their reproductive and basic, fundamental rights, but also LGBQT struggles, immigration support, environmental issues, healthcare protection, Black Lives Matter, and simple statements about why and for whom they were marching.
Over half a million marchers took over the nation’s capital during the peaceful protest, doubling the original expected attendance and reaching numbers higher than the presidential inauguration the day prior.
Crowds grew so large that walking in any direction felt impossible. The metaphorical connectivity I expected, now became literal — shoulders nudged and hands grazed one another. Personal space wasn’t happening, but the general attitude remained grateful. We were in it together, in awe of the overwhelming turnout.
It was in these moments of discomfort where I understood what being a part of a new movement truly felt like. There I stood, camera in hand, periodically blinking away tears in order to see the photos I was taking. Chants rang in my ears, reminding me that our country is compiled of decent and diverse human beings, each wanting to do his or her part to welcome all those who call this country home, with equality, respect and compassion.
As I weaseled my way through the crowd, I spoke to people on a range of topics: where the next bathroom stops were, what street we were on exactly, if they could hear the speakers and performers and most importantly, why they were there. I’ve shared a few below:
No Hate! No Fear! Immigrants are welcome here!
An issue affecting an exponentially large population in our country is the future of our immigration policies. A country once proud of its melting pot status is seemingly trying to dismiss its diversities.