This year, 2019, is the second year I went to the March for Life in DC (hereafter referred to as "the March" because I am a lazy typer). The first time was in 2013 (I think), so it has definitely been a while. Honestly, this time was a lot more fun. The first time, maybe it was because it was my first time, I felt pretty overwhelmed and kind of confused. It was great, don't get me wrong, but I had no idea what to expect and was not prepared for the magnitude of the March.
This year was better. First off, I went with two good friends of mine. Not that I wasn't with people I knew before, but these are two ladies I can be chill around. Second, my expectations were much more reasonable. Not perfect, but we're getting there.
To begin the day, my alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. I didn't even hit the snooze button because I knew that would be the end of my chances at making the March. So, I dragged myself out of bed, drank some coffee, and headed out the door. Around 4:30 our bus left New Castle Pennsylvania for Washington DC.
The bus ride out was fun. We chatted, we laughed, we slept, we drank more coffee. We also knitted. I decided that in order to properly notify the government about my displeasure over legal abortion I had to have a hand knitted hat. Unfortunately, I have four children and a very demanding job. So, my hat wasn't done.
Some people might have gone to the store and bought a hat. Or, found another hat at home to wear. Not I. I finished that hat. I ended my last row as the bus captain announced we had ten minutes left before we disembarked in DC. My marcher-in-arms, below, sewed on a removable pom pom at roughly the speed of light. Thanks to her, I had my complete March for Life hat!
We got off the bus and for the beginning of our day my phone still worked and I was able to get in touch with my friend Jamieson. Jamieson was an intern at Alpha Omega Center for awhile and lately works with Ohio Right to Life. She's fantastic and I was thrilled to catch up with her.
This is the first thing you need to know about the March. Almost everyone is your friend. You may not have met them yet, but there they are. If you go, put your friendly face on. Meet people, introduce yourself, swap stories. You will never be in a crowd of this many pro-life people in your life. Take advantage of it. Your first year it will probably feel strange and awkward. But, as you get to know people and connect, you will start to sense the community. The unity. This is the strength of the pro-life movement. We're not perfect, and we don't always do things right, but we genuinely love others. Otherwise, we wouldn't bother doing what we do.
Thing-to-know 1.5 is this, make sure your phone works. I wanted to touch base with a few others as well, but my phone decided to run it's own protest and turn itself off. I was really bummed about that. Next year I'm bringing a back up battery pack. I was with friends, so I was fine, but if I had been alone I would have had a very tough time finding my bus again. Make sure your phone is operational and have a printed map as a back up.
Back to making friends at the March. This is true, but realize there are unfriendly or even hostile people everywhere. The March is no exception. While the vast majority of people there are wonderful, not all are. Some of them are counter protesters, some are pushing their own agenda (maybe they're pro-life, but that's not why they're there), and some are looking to take advantage of a large crowd. So, second thing to know, don't be dumb. Stick with your tribe. If you're a kid, even a teen, stay with an adult. Did you see the drama about the Catholic high school students? Those kids were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stay aware and exit any situation that feels uncomfortable or "wrong."
Perhaps the thing that everyone takes away from the March is the enormity of it all. I can't even express to you how many people were there. We were packed from shoulder to shoulder as far as you could see. I have no idea how many people were there. I saw one estimate of 650,000, which to me seems entirely plausible. Part of it is a little unsettling, because at one point we couldn't even move. No matter how comfortable you are in crowds the thought of being "stuck" can make you feel panicky.
The bigger part is that the enormous crowd is tremendously encouraging. If this many people are willing to travel and march in the freezing cold for the unborn, what can we accomplish? I'll bet that for every person who was there ten more wished they could be. Further, for every one of those ten there are another twenty that are pro-life but not into marching. At least. That's incredible. If we can harness that energy we can truly end abortion.
So, the third thing to know? There will be a crowd. A huge crowd. If crowds unsettle you, plan to observe from the sidelines. When you're in the thick of it you won't be able to exit easily.
After the rally, and the crushing crowd, we marched. At this point, the crowd became less oppressive. Maybe because we were all moving and somewhat limited by the width of the roads. Honestly though, it wasn't so much a "march" as a shuffle. You don't get that many people moving in the same direction with any kind of speed. So you walk a bit. Then stop a bit. Then shuffle a bit. Then walk some more. The march seemed really long even though it was only about 1.5 miles.
This brings us to thing #4. Maybe this one goes without saying. If you can't walk or stand for a long time, plan ahead. Bring a wheelchair if you need it. If you have small kids, definitely have a stroller or wagon. It may not seem that long, but it takes a while. The cold makes it seem longer, too, so bundle up. The good news is that no matter how bad the crowds were, people made space for kids, the elderly, and those with special needs. I didn't see anyone in any of those categories having trouble and I saw a lot of people doing what they could to give them space. Like I said, it's the biggest crowd of friends you'll ever be in. The video below shows a time lapse of the march from Students for Life. If you can spot me and my hastily sewed on pom pom I'll give you $10.
After the march we found our bus and began the long drive home. It was a good day, a great day, and it was long. Am I going next year? Absolutely. Although, my prayer is that next year we march in celebration because Roe v. Wade has been reversed. Next year I will finish my hat earlier, I'll drink more water, I'll pack a battery backup (my dad already ordered me one, thanks dad!) and I'll bring a pillow for the bus.
Why go next year? Well, honestly, I almost didn't go this year. I was really on the fence until my dear friend Sarah (the one with questionable crafting choices) said she was going. Why was I hesitant to attend? I figured that the March isn't going to make me pro-life. It isn't going to make me care more. It isn't going to make me work harder. Further, I have to take a day off of my actual job, saving babies and mothers from abortion, to go to the March. So, why bother?
I Marched because I care. Because my two feet and adorable hat were representing life that day. I joined my voice and my heart to an incredible sea of humanity saying that these babies matter and that we're tired of abortion. I went thinking that I was going to have some fun and give something up for the cause, and I was right. However, my experience went much further than just having a good day while doing a good thing.
I was encouraged. Tremendously encouraged. I'm not alone. Alpha Omega Center isn't alone. The pregnancy help movement isn't alone. We have the support of many people behind us, and these people are full of life and energy. Nobody was there because they "had to be." Other than perhaps some of the organizers and lobbyists, nobody was getting paid to be there. If that many people can voluntarily give of their time, energy, and finances to join in then we really have something.
I left feeling upbeat, and my goal is to hang onto that feeling throughout the year. Beyond that, I want to harness some of that energy and pour it into the lifesaving work of Alpha Omega Center. Did you attend the March? If you didn't, did you want to? Don't let that be the first and last thing you do for life this year.
Contact me and find out how you can get involved. If enough of us get involved in the day-to-day work of the pro-life movement we won't have to March in protest. We'll be able to March in celebration. We'll never forget the lives lost, but someday soon I hope we can March on Washington knowing that the time of legally killing our unborn children is finally over.
Also, I need to confess, I happily wore my crocheted scarf to the March.