BY DENISE FINKBEINER HOLDEN
WASHINGTON — I like my comfort. I’m not the type to protest, walking around with strangers carrying posters for each other to read.
I voted. I said my piece. But, each for our own reasons in the span of a week, my friends and I decided it was important to go to Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 21, and join like-minded strangers to protest after Inauguration Day. The Women’s March on Washington would be a visual way of showing the country and the world that we were in agreement about our peaceful disagreement with the new Trump administration.
The three of us met at 5 a.m. and compared our choice of needed supplies: nuts, water, popcorn, some chocolate, wipes, phone chargers, identification, money, a pen, gloves.
And I brought an apron. They stared at me. I like pockets.
The normally congested I-64 gauntlet was smooth and easy driving with convoys of rented buses in the right lane. Luckily, it was supposed to be a mild day. We threaded our way through Georgetown after the GPS route was blocked for bus parking. With our Mom Wagon stored at a friend’s house in Friendship Heights, near the Metro station, we chose our garb for whatever weather we might encounter and made our important bathroom strategy plan. Then we walked to the Metro.
I was surprised by how many people were already getting out of cars, walking along sidewalks, recognizable as fellow marchers by the variety of tinkered hats they wore. We had been warned to have our Metro cards filled and ready, and we glided past the first tangle of pink hats buying tickets and descended to the tracks. Cars were jammed like rush hour, yet everyone was excited, chatty, comparing places of origin. At each station, I discovered how to take up a little less space.
By now, all I could see were heads and hats of women, men, and children. I had not expected whole families to make this effort. The man next to me had worked a 23-hour shift, then joined his friends for the eight-hour drive from Vermont.
When we got off the train, the crowd was deafening in the caverns of Judiciary Square Station. The escalators had been turned off so no one would get hurt. People moved in a mass like ants in a nature documentary, cheering every time a train unloaded more passengers. Above ground, the bobbing knit hats moved toward the National Mall, toward the waves of sound coming from behind the museums of the Smithsonian.
I looked for the big crowd, the source of the sound, and I walked closer to my fellow travelers. Like a tide changing course and catching an unwary sailor, I looked up and realized I was in the crowd. I was part of the crowd. I was engulfed by the crowd. It was only 9:30 a.m. The march wasn’t due to start until 1 p.m.
There was no way we were going to see any speakers, reach a stage, or find a toilet. I grew disoriented by all the bodies brushing past me in both directions. A person collapsed just by my shoulder and others yelled for a doctor with more passion than in the movies. We passed people who had climbed scaffolding, bleachers, light poles, signs. We yelled to some guys in the trees to tell us what was going on.
“Hey, Tree Guy, what do you see?”
Phone service was overwhelmed. I fretted more and more over potential dangers. Some grew restless and irritable as 2 p.m. rolled around. How were they going to get us all out of there before dark? Unable to force that many people through mapped routes chosen for the march, the crowd morphed itself towards the Washington Monument on its own, merged right somewhat onto pavement, then flowed like liquid into the nearby streets.
The crowd sang “America the Beautiful.” Everyone took pictures and read each other’s signs. Some walked silently. Some yelled.
The D.C. police horses joined to keep the crowd from going out of bounds, and the crowd morphed again like a flock of starlings. When the crowd reached the Trump Hotel, some were a bit giddy with mischief and chanted, “How do you like your First Day; we’re not going to go away!” We marched to the White House and then looked back at the crowd, at the many faces of women, men and young people, the oldsters with naughty signs hanging on their necks, the lady in a wheelchair, the baby strollers.
The sun was setting. The solid line of Secret Service cars parked in front of the White House had disappeared. A white helicopter flew overhead, followed a couple minutes later by another.
I looked at my friends and said, “That’s enough. Let’s go.”
I’d like to thank the Washington, D.C., police for their patience and professionalism. I’d like to give a huge shout out to the Metro workers for an amazing job that Saturday. They moved all those people without protest, without strife, with respect and authority.
It was an amazing day, and I am grateful to have been part of it.
The author is an artist, gardener, wife and mother of three kids she says are now smarter and stronger than she is. She a graduate of First Colonial High School and Old Dominion University.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC