We knew it would be big; perhaps the biggest march of our lives.
I got loads of advice.
“Don’t carry a bag!”
“Only bring what you can afford to lose.”
“Write your emergency contact info on your arm with a Sharpie.”
“Don’t drink water. Quench your thirst with dried apricots. “
It was, thankfully, warm for January 21st in New York. But we would have come in a blizzard.
I met my gal pals at a diner near the rally site.
I saw Leslie and Adeena first, kissed them, and then screamed, “BATHROOM FIRST!”.
“Smart!” Samantha (Sam) yelled after me.
I saw Jose’ on the way to the bathroom line.
“I’ve got two girls! I want them to be empowered and know their papa was part of it.”
When I got back, I opened my jacket and dispersed two bags of dried apricots.
“You’ll thank me later.”
Then I presented Heike, Sam and Charmaine with pink “Pussyhats,” hand knit by my friend Mary Jane.
They were ecstatic.
“I can’t tell you what this means to me,” Heike sad politely.
“She’s been wanting one all morning.”
“Vagina power!” Charmaine screamed.
I had two signs, one that read, “I’m with hers” and another that read “AUDACITY OF NOPE.”
Sam happily volunteered to carry the NOPE sign.
“I got my own!” Charmaine said proudly and showed off her poster on which was written, “Keep your little hands off my uterus!”
We had registered for start times, meant to stagger the crowd based on your last name, but it very quickly became apparent that no one would be collecting tickets.
I don’t know how many people they were expecting, but clearly there were more. Many more.
We reached the rally at Dag Hammarskjold Park at 10:45 a.m.
Charmaine led the charge as we weaved through the already immense and growing crowd to try to get within hearing distance of the speakers. We held hands so as not to lose each other.
I heard Rosie Perez first. Her unmistakable voice needed no introduction: “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a very long time. I am so filled with love and hope,” she said.
Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon spoke, “Remember that throughout history, when women organize, change happens.”
We heard Whoopi Goldberg, Helen Mirren, and First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray.
It was claustrophobic squished inside the crowd, but the breeze was strong and soothing. Everywhere I turned, a smiling face met me.
After the rally, it took more than an hour to inch our way out of the park and onto Second Avenue. By the time we reached Second, our group had dwindled to 15. I don’t even know when we lost Jen.
The plan was for the march to go downtown on Second Avenue to 42st, then head west to Fifth Avenue, then head uptown toward Trump Plaza.
The map for the march was 24 blocks. I wasn’t worried. I regularly walk 30 or more blocks a day. But seeing how long it took us to go just a block on Second Avenue. I understood.
“It will be hours before we reach Fifth Avenue,” Barbara said.
Again, Charmaine led the charge: “We can do it!”
I grabbed Liz’s hand. Gloria snagged Barbara.
Signs were everywhere.
“There’ll be hell toupee.”
“Orange you glad Putin helped you win?”
“My body my choice.”
“Equal Pay is the Only Way”
“Dykes for Rights”
“The KKK are celebrating and we are resisting”
“Grab HIM by the taxes.”
“Black Lives Matter”
“Organize Agitate Educate”
“United Against Hate”
“LOVE TRUMPS HATE”
“This Pussy grabs back”
“He Made America Hate again”
“Made In Vagina”
“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries”
One little girl being carried by her mom pointed to a sign reading, “Grab Him By the Taxes” with male genitals drawn on it and asked, “Is that a butt?”
“Yes dear. That’s a butt,” her mom said, laughing.
As we turned onto 42nd Street, I began to comprehend the magnitude of this day. There were women cheering as far back as I could see and as far ahead. Some men were marching, too. People hung signs from windows and roofs. They packed the sidewalks, cheering us on.
Two young women walked by by holding a sign that read,
“Melania, blink twice if you want us to save you.” We all broke out laughing,
We lost a few more of our group in the crowd surging in from Second Avenue and were down to eight. Somehow, we even lost Charmaine. Leslie was taking a photo. Adeena sent a text message, and like that they dissolved into the crush of women. We were six.
We decided to keep hands on each other for the rest of the march. Sam, Gloria, Heike, Eric and me.
An elderly woman stood on the corner of 42nd and Lexington, holding a sign that read, “Now you made Grandma angry.” We all cheered.
A little girl inside a glass window at the Grand Hyatt pressed a piece of cardboard against the window on which was scrawled in childlike handwriting, “UNITE.” We all cheered as she waved at us.
As we approached the Met Life Building Bridge over 42nd Street, we looked up and saw a crowd of photographers, young men and women in “Pussyhats” on the bridge cheering.
A man hung over the bridge and yelled out to us.
“Tell us what democracy looks like!”
“This is what democracy looks like!”
Of all the marching chants that day this was the one that I pulled at my heart the most.
“THS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”
There were pink hats everywhere, women of all ages, shades and sizes. Everyone was cheering,
Surely this was exactly what democracy looks like.
I thought I had felt the enormity of this day, but then we turned onto Fifth Avenue and saw a seemingly endless sea of marchers.”
We yelled, “Women’s rights are human rights!”
“Black Lives Matter!”
“HANDS TOO SMALL TO BUILD A WALL.”
It took us more than 6 hours to march those 24 blocks.
We hadn’t used the bathroom since the morning. Even with Sam’s yoga stretch instruction, our feet and legs hurt so much we could hardly walk.
I didn’t notice the sun going down, but it was hard to miss how cold it got after it did. Even so, the cold and aching feet paled in comparison with the immense power of this day.
“They just said 400,000 people are here and twice as many in Washington!” a young woman shouted.
“They are marching everywhere! Los Angeles, Texas, Miami, Boston, Chicago, London, Copenhagen! We are all over the world today!!”
We slowly made our way off Fifth Avenue toward a warm pub with food, friends and BATHROOMS. We passed a police van that had become a monument to human rights, decorated with the signs of the day. My eyes latched onto a pink sign that read, “Women Roar.”
“Yes we do.”
In that immense and overwhelming crowd, nobody pushed, nobody shoved, and nobody fought. Even the police seemed tranquil.
“If this had been the men’s march, it would have gotten ugly,” Gloria said.
“We woke the world up today.”
I could still heard the chanting crowd on Fifth Avenue. “This is what democracy looks like!”
How often do you get to march into history?