I just saw the new movie “20th Century Women” yesterday on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It made me laugh and it made me cry. When the credits were rolling at the end, I turned to Stephen and said “Wow, this was definitely a women empowering weekend!”
Obviously, I am referring to the Women’s March on Washington. I am proud to say that I was there! There has never been, and most likely will never be another experience like that in our lifetime. All the images in the media could not even begin to depict the feelings and emotions that were present in our nation’s capital on Saturday.
Here is a behind-the-scenes timeline of this historic event from just one 61 year-old woman’s perspective:
November 19th, 2016
A Women’s March in Washington was announced and I immediately signed up for the RALLY bus. My anger regarding the new administration fueled my desire to do something, since I constantly wanted to cry, scream, and yell. I was so crushed with the outcome of November 8th, I needed to speak up; I had no choice. (I will secretly admit that I had only 2 concerns – security and the bathroom situation.)
Here was an opportunity to protest and march!
January 20th, 2017. Night before:
Pack Metro card, some cash, snacks, wipes, tissues, and water. Shower. Set alarm on phone for 4:30 am. (Side note: I have an internal alarm clock, but just in case…)
January 21st, 2017.
Stephen drove me to the Rally bus drop off point where I searched for my marching partner and very dear friend Nancy. We were standing in the darkness wearing big smiles and displaying nervous excitement. There were about 15 buses lined up and we chose Bus #306 and climbed aboard. We were off to Washington, D.C.! We secured our seats and for the next 3 hours we chatted and snacked and caught up on our ‘girl talk’.
The bus pulled into to RFK Stadium Arena and we were already in awe over the number of buses and throngs of women that were huddling in the parking lot. We didn’t have a ‘bus captain’ or a group leader, so we were on our own to navigate the day. Logic told us to follow the crowd and hopefully it would direct us to the Metro station. Thanks to Nancy, she thought to look up at the sign where #306 was parked and saw that we were parked in Lot 7b. PHEW! We started to walk and soon discovered that half the crowd was walking straight to the event, and the other half was going to the Metro. We had our Metro cards, so we were taking the Metro!
At this point, it felt like a field trip. We hopped on the Metro at the Stadium/Armory station and 4 stops later, we departed at Capital South. When we ascended the escalator, I think our jaws dropped to the ground. These weren’t just a bunch of women wearing funny pink hats, this was a breathtaking scene. I couldn’t speak. We both had tears in our eyes and goosebumps all over…overwhelmed.
Nancy and I decided early on that we would not let each other go, for fear of being separated and swallowed up in the crowd. So there we were, arm in arm, carrying our signs and walking towards the stage. Just by random luck, we parked ourselves in a spot that would be similar to being backstage at a show. We were facing the VIP tent where the speakers and ‘celebrities’ walked to and from the stage. We had no idea who would be there – other than Gloria Steinem. In fact, we weren’t there to spot celebrities or anything Hollywood; we were there on a very serious mission. The speeches had started and within minutes we were involved with our circle of women sharing our stories, grumbling about congress, where we travelled from and of course discussed our disdain for the newly elected commander in chief. We bonded. We laughed. We shared our snacks. We chanted and chanted and chanted. Every few minutes someone in our crowd would say “Oh look, there’s Cher! Or Katie Couric, or Chaz Bono, or Michael Moore, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Gloria Steinem, Debi Mazar, Angela Davis, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Emma Watson, America Ferrera, Cory Booker, Cecile Richards, Jesse Jackson, and the list went on….
The speeches also went on, and on, and on. Unfortunately we could not hear them all, or see the actual speakers. Of course there were no ‘big’ screens because there were no corporate sponsors. The speeches were supposed to end at 1:00 but actually ended at 2:30. (Note: I read that there were 44 speakers!) My favorites were Michael Moore who was incredibly inspiring by giving us the blueprint for what we NEED to do now, and then Alicia Keys led the crowd in a chant before performing a brief version of “Girl on Fire’ with the lyrics changed to “These girls are on Fire”. By 1:15, we had all been standing on our feet for many hours AND unable to move six inches in any direction – that’s how squished our crowd was! The chants turned into “March March March”!
We were instructed that it was time to march. We could finally move! First order of business is kind of obvious – where are the bathrooms? (Note: Bus restroom was out of order). Now, I am going to disclose something very personal – I have a case of ‘public bathroom phobia’ and have never used a ‘porta’ potty. Ever. Well my friends, I guess there’s a first time for everything and I’m just going to say this: Due to the inauguration the day before, these porta-john things were there for 2 days. This was the most disgusting and grossest thing I ever saw. Ok, I said it. That was it. First time. Last time. I was determined to put a mental lock on my bladder until I was home.
Nancy and I now felt rejuvenated and revitalized. The March had begun and it was the most fun part of the day. Once again, we were chanting with our friends, our sisters and our fellow protesters. “Hey hey ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and “Tell me what democracy (or America) looks like! THIS is what democracy (or America) looks like!”
We were in the middle of the crowd feeling empowered and important. At one point, several police vehicles drove down the street and the crowds waved and cheered. Other than that, we did not see any security throughout the whole day.
I spotted a Metro station and suggested that we should probably head back to the bus area. Both of our cell phones had no power and we had been relying heavily on crowd power to navigate the city. The line was about a mile long and we took our place. Oops, wrong station. We were advised by someone in an orange vest to go to another station (L’enfant Plaza) which would be closer to our dear Bus #306. So……we bolt out of line and start to walk furiously to the other station. Slight problem – the main streets were cordoned off (due to the unanticipated HUGE crowds 🙂 and we had to walk all the way around the area in the opposite direction. We were so energized at this point, we would have walked to the moon. On our route, Nancy befriended a nice gentleman recently retired from the army who not only told us he was on his way to our L’enfant Plaza Metro station, but lent us his portable cell phone charger for a quick boost. Picture this – Nancy and I were now toggled together by a battery pack walking briskly through the streets covered with signs and litter. The one image that made us laugh on our way back were the clever ‘signs’ now adhered to the ‘porta-johns’. (Dump trump, Pee & Putin, Trump’s Golden Showers, and many more!) When we arrived to the station, we once again took our place at the end of the line and reveled in the events of the day.
This was my least favorite part of the day. (Well, other than you-know-what.) The Metro was so packed that there wasn’t an inch of room on the first one that came in to the station. When the next one came in, the doors opened and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. I almost fell, but there was no space to fall! We were like sardines and it was awful. At this point, our adrenalin was waning and fatigue was setting in. OK, we were tired! However, once we stepped onto the platform and headed up the escalator, that one last look of the sea of women behind us in their funny pink hats chanting one last time, revitalized us and was justification for our mission.
We located Lot 7b (thank you Nancy!) and reunited with our Philly bus-mates. We shared our cheers and stories. Wine and leftover snacks were offered and then a quietness settled in as the bus lights were turned off and it pulled out of the parking lot. Nancy was out like a light, and I sat there on Bus #306 with my eyes closed and felt the day wash over me like a warm blanket.