|Actually, the final estimate was 650,000--give or take a few tens of thousands.|
After stumbling upon Fr. Justin and making a scene, Lita and I left the Dominicans and explored the other signs and flags nearby, finding interesting groups such as Pro Gay Pro Life and Seculars for Life and Hemophiliacs for Life. But the temperature was in the 20s and we felt cold so we decided to enter into the hordes of people where we could leech off their body heat and be out of the wind. As the emcees warmed up for the rally by shouting out to various states and groups and projecting live video on the Jumbotron we eventually realized that we were behind the stage! And walking to the other side we saw a seemingly endless sea of more than half a million people. I was amazed to see armies of jubilant high school and college aged people, making up far more than half the population present. And they were all so joyful. As Fr. Wells said during his homily at the Comcast Center: “Then He sends us out to march joyfully, to protest prayerfully, to give evidence to the world that life is good and we cannot deprive anyone of their God-given right to live.” Far from the somber severity I had expected, the atmosphere was filled with hope and joyful celebration of life and community. The sense of community would increase right through to the end of the March.
|Secular Pro-Life (from Lita)|
The rally included oodles of live and taped speakers including politicians, ex-abortionists, women who regret their abortions, people who were conceived through rape, various religious leaders, the new organizer of the March (The previous organizer, Nellie Gray, passed away last year at age 88.), and a Tweet of encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI!
Lita took an abandoned sign, after getting permission from a pack of teenagers, but we hid it in a bush when we decided to go into the Smithsonian Castle to warm up. I saw no signs of civil disobedience (certainly nothing worse than our sign-hiding offense) but the DC natives made it clear that they were not happy to see us (see what I mean?), from threats of confiscating property and pre-scolding us for anticipated disobedience to blank looks in response to innocent questions and an overall tone of unfriendliness. It certainly felt like the staff at the Smithsonian Café would have refused service if they had thought it would be legally permissible. But from so many years in grad school I know how frustrating it can be to find oneself caught, even for a few minutes, in the middle of a crowd of teenagers, no matter how well intentioned. And maybe that explains how they became so exasperated. Anyway, after a few humbling experiences, we managed to purchase hot tea and snacks. I ate my breakfast of cheddar and sour cream potato chips while we had a nice chat about vocations and Opus Dei and corporal mortifications and many other things.
|Lita's "stolen" sign and proof that she definitely did not need a new hat.|
By the time we left the sign was gone but I had gotten instructions from Jeremy telling us the whereabouts of the Mount St. Mary’s seminarians. So we set out on a confusing trek through the crowd, frequently led astray by various miscommunications. But, perhaps led by the Holy Spirit, we eventually found them toward what seemed like it might be the front of the March, although we still couldn’t see the leaders.
Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of this March for Life 2013 blog post series!