by Jocelyn Jane Cox
I was nervous about going to the Women’s March on New York City, since I didn’t know what was going to happen there…of course no one knew. I got my emergency contacts and buddy system all lined up, and even packed a bandana in my pocket, as suggested, in case of tear gas. I am certainly glad I overcame my fears, because it ended up not only being safe, but it was one of the most powerful and heartening experiences of my life.
I went with about 10 friends as part of a larger group, Rockland Sisters and Allies. We gathered in Tarrytown Station. When we boarded the train we were met with cheers from other marchers wearing pink knit “pussyhats.” When we got into Grand Central, we stopped in the grand concourse and stood in awe, to see all the marchers filling the space and trying to connect with their friends. When we visited the restrooms we chose to use the men’s room — this was police-condoned, but we still saw it as a small act of resistance.
From there, we made our way to the rally, to be held at the beginning of the march in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. We could barely get across 2nd Avenue to enter the plaza, and once we did, we squeezed in — I mean really squeezed in. There were so many people in attendance. Though there were apparently speakers giving speeches on a stage in the distance and a large screen showing them, we couldn’t see any of it.
So here’s what we did for the next two hours or so: we stood. We also chatted, got to know each other better, and met some new, like-minded people standing around us. We looked at all the great signs. Some of my favorite read: FREE MELANIA, URINE TROUBLE, WE WILL OVERCOMB, RUTH [Ginsburg], DON’T DIE, and simply, NYET. To stay warm we danced to the sounds of the rag-tag band nearby. We shared PB&J sandwiches and granola bars. We chimed in on intermittent chants and started a few. Eventually, we started to wonder: Why aren’t we going anywhere? With so many people in such close proximity there was no service, so none of us could get answers from our phones.
People started chanting “Let us march! Let us march!” — which sounds demanding, but was good-natured.
A particularly intrepid member of our group decided to try and get some information: she ventured through crowd and found an organizer. Her report back was that nothing bad had happened and the organizers were not holding us back; it’s just that there was nowhere to go.
Nowhere to go?
We didn’t know what this meant.
It was at least another 30 minutes before we started to inch our way out of the plaza. It was slow-going. We couldn’t see much in any direction due to the surrounding buildings, all the marchers, and all the signs. At some point along this snail-paced journey, the sun began to shine, which was welcomed.
Then, it happened. We finally reached 2nd Avenue. We looked to our right. I don’t think any of us could believe our eyes. We were in the middle of an incline, so we could see quite a distance to the north.
We realized that we had been waiting so long and moving so slow because blocks upon blocks upon blocks of people filling the streets and were inching along, just like us. We were supposedly at “the beginning of the march.” But out of necessity, marchers were now starting 10 or 15 blocks before the official starting point.
We marveled at the sea of signs and sun rays glinting off of them. It was surreal and completely breathtaking. I’ve been to concerts at Madison Square Garden, and I’ve been to Yankee Stadium, so I’ve seen lots of people in one place before. But I have never seen anything like this: a sea of people, a sea of signs, a sea of support flowing slowly and peacefully through a city I love. This is the moment, the visual, I will never forget.
What I didn’t know at the time and only found out when I got home later that night is that this exact same sea was flowing with determination through cities and even small towns across the country and around the world. Not just in Washington D.C., not just New York City, but around the world.
Women’s March: The Power Of Numbers
Of course, there is power in numbers. We know this. But there is also power and value in symbolic acts. This show of collective strength from women, men, and people of all colors in New York City has been edifying. The first week in office of the 45th President of the United States has been alarming, to say the least. The amount work we will have to do to prevent the rollback of basic human rights and to keep all our children safe is downright staggering. I am doing everything I can to help, I will continue to do so, and I see people all around me with a similar resolve. Our marches were not a prelude to apathy. They were a demonstration of true unity, and I believe, a public vow to do the real work.
I know many of you had similar experiences. Let’s hold onto them and have faith as we repair this beautiful, broken country.