I rode up to Savannah where buses were leaving for the Womens March On Washington with a journalist I met due to our shared interest in letting our voice be heard. Bethany's reason for marching was not only to exercise her First Amendment rights, but to observe as others took the same advantage of our Constitution.
A friend of hers had a mother going to Washington for the March and offered to let us park in her yard before she dropped us all off at the buses. I was surprised to find her mother using a walker. In her fifties or sixties, Diane had been in a bad auto accident that left her in the hospital for several months. While there, she saw people in worse shape and realized just how important Obamacare and Medicaid were to people without work insurance. So she was marching to protest repealing the ACA without giving us a replacement. She made the trip, though she spent most of the day in the disabled section and was sick several times coming back. I admire her greatly.
On the bus, my seatmate was Lisa, a young woman originally from Portland, Oregon. She has been doing a contract job for the Corps of Engineers and will be in Savannah for a couple more months. An avid environmentalist, Lisa marched to protest the evisceration of the EPA. She is frightened that clean air and clean water will become a thing of the past while the new administration dismisses climate change as fake science.
Across the bus aisle, Ali and Barbie sat together. Ali is a college student at SCAD (Savannah College of Arts and Design) majoring in Film and Photography. She marched for all women, and wants people to realize that every woman, no matter her race or color or religion, deserves to be treated with respect and tolerance.
Petite Barbie has a teenaged son and does not like large crowds. In fact, she warned us if she had a panic attack, she might have to step to the side for a while. Like the rest of us, she set out, determined to be heard. She was reticent about voicing her views, but if I remember correctly, our new president's attitude toward women touched a nerve. She marched for survivors of sexual assault.
Like me, Ali and Barbie had never done anything like this before. Only Lisa had marched at rallies and nothing, she said, as big as this one. She came prepared with a vest that held everything. Every time I looked around, she was pulling out a bag of carrots or cucumbers or tortillas (?) or something else to eat and offering it around. My own Lance crackers and energy bars seemed sadly lacking in the health department next to her stash.
But we made out all right. When everyone packed together, we did have to put Barbie up on a curb so she didn't get too panicky. And Ali kept lagging as she snapped pix of the huge crowd with her camera. Lisa was our leader (we never did manage to meet up with the rest of our Georgia contingent) directing us which way to go. And they all kept tabs on me, the oldest one who should have been giving them advice. "Going too fast?" "Think you can make it?" "This way! Don't get lost!"
None of us knew each other before the march. I doubt we'll ever meet again. But that day, we all marched to resist what already seems like a dismal future. We and nearly half a million other people came together to speak with one voice. Women's rights are human rights.
Here's a selfie of the three angels who stuck with me throughout that momentous Saturday: Barbie, Lisa, Ali, and me.
They dragged me over walls when we couldn't get around barriers and held up chains for me to climb under when I couldn't step over them and caught me when I stumbled. I couldn't have got through that day without them. I'll never forget them. And I'll never forget the thankfulness of learning others feel as I do, ready to rise up and fight for the America we love.