Maureen Madrid-Wilson(White Hat), Newaygo resident, and neighbor to N3 World Headquarters attended the ‘March For Our Lives’ in Washington this past weekend with friends and family
She has graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the experience.
The journey started after a regular day’s work. My friend Barb, who I have known since Kindergarten, and two of my adult stepdaughters left to catch the Rally Bus in Ann Arbor with a departure time of 11:30 pm. We arrived not the least bit tired and most of us were awake for the 10 hour bus ride to Washington DC. We immediately struck up a friendship with Norm- a young man who is a child psychologist and Judy – a 72 year old 4’10 spitfire - both who were attending the event on their own. We immediately invited them to join our group of 4.
We arrived at Union Station 3 hours before the March For Our Lives event was scheduled to begin. People were already there, walking around, carrying signs. The air was electric. The weather: PERFECT! Lots of security personnel were around the Capitol building but they were friendly and smiled and responded when we asked them questions.
Around 11 a.m. we decided to get over to Pennsylvania Avenue. We knew we wouldn’t be able to be close to the main stage, but at this point, we were just happy to be there and involved!
The number of people walking toward Pennsylvania Avenue slowly kept growing. People were smiling pointing at signs. You were hearing “great sign! Can I take a picture of it?” “where are you guys from?” as we kept making our way over to the event. We had no idea how many people were there. We only knew that no matter where you looked- you were surrounded. Everyone was packed in together but the amazing thing was, everyone was patient and kind with no harsh words and no rude remarks or gestures. People talked of how no one wants to lose the 2nd Amendment but that common sense needs to prevail. People smiled and stopped to chat with people they had never met before that moment. It was a sea of humanity with one shared goal.
We got to a place where we could stand and see a screen . We were surrounded by all ages and races, veterans, teachers, grandparents, parents, teens etc….what a collection of humanity! We waited patiently for the event to start. One by one, speakers took to the podium, celebrities and singers were there too but the loudest applause was given to the students.
We were tired; our feet hurt; our backs were aching from standing for so long. No one wanted to leave to go to the bathroom because no one wanted to miss a thing. As the afternoon went on, we all knew we were waiting for Emma. While all of the MSD students have been eloquent and inspiring…Emma had captured my attention. When she came to the podium the crowd erupted in applause and cheers!
When she began her impassioned words were amazing. She talked about the students who were killed. How they wouldn’t be able to play basketball again, or hang out with their friends. She read off each name and made them human to us- not just a name. Then she stopped.
She stared into the camera. She didn’t blink. We waited. We waited some more. The time ticked on. The crowd of 800,000 was SILENT. We waited. What was she going to say? Was she trying to gain her composure? Was she trying to collect her thoughts? Did she freeze? The time kept ticking. A few chants of “NEVER AGAIN” or “VOTE HER IN” started then quickly faded as the screens continued to focus on her face. The camera panned the crowd. It showed thousands of faces staring back. No one was talking. No one was coughing or sniffing or shuffling their feet. We were all frozen- waiting for what was coming. What WAS coming????? The minutes ticked on. 800,000 people SILENTLY waiting. Some of us were in tears just feeling the power of her and what she had gone through.
Finally, she spoke.
“6 minutes 20 seconds – that is how long it took the gunman to kill 17 people”
Emma’s speech may have been the shortest of the day but it was the most profound.
Jennifer Hudson closed the event. All the participants joined her on stage. We watched. We cheered. We steeled our resolve knowing the attacks on this movement would begin the next day, if not sooner.
As the ocean of people started to recede, we walked to the White House and looked. We read more signs. We talked to more people. We walked back toward the Capital. We looked at all the history that surrounded us. Barb, Norm, Judy, Cassandra, Telah and myself…we looked at each other and said….
“We were a part of history today”.
It was truly one of the BEST experiences that I have had in my 58 years.
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