A Million People, Give or Take, and Some Kindness

Hillary Clinton was my daughter’s high school graduation speaker. Her speech was not political; it was funny and eloquent and inspiring. They shook hands immediately after my daughter received her diploma.  I know exactly how my daughter, who can now vote, felt on election night. I was an eight year old Irish Catholic, an altar boy, when JFK was shot. Dreams die hard.

So last night, I considered my options for today. I could go on a solo hike or I could accompany Mrs. Rootchopper to the Women’s March in Washington DC. I chose the latter.

We arrived in DC at 8 am, parked the car, and walked across the National Mall to meet a friend at the Woolly Mammoth ThDSCN5733.JPGeater Company. The folks there had opened their doors for restrooms and refreshments. What an act of kindness. You can be sure we will be checking out their productions in the future.

After hanging out for a while we headed across the Mall on 7th Street. The crowds were already getting big. Signs were everywhere. Traffic cops wore Statue of Liberty crowns. We moved down the Mall to 4th Street and finally came to a stop at Jefferson, near the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. The crowd grew and grew. We could only see about 50 yards in any direction but all we could see were people. People on the edges of ledges on the museum. People on traffic signals. People in trees.

There we stood, unable to move without massive effort amid the deDSCN5752.JPGnse throng. I was apparently starting to show signs of discomfort when a woman of a certain age walked past. She looked at me and said “Breathe” and calmly inhaled through her nose. She told me she was a Buddhist as she walked past. Another act of kindness. A group of college aged protesters started to get vocal. They were joined by some drummers. A drum/dance circle formed. Party!

The circle broke up. We stood and got jostled around waiting for the march to begin. The start time came and went. Another hour passed. Our knees and backs were starting to lock up from standing in the same spot for so long.

Finally we noticed that people behind us were no longer waiting for the march which was supposed to go down Independence Avenue toward the White House. Instead these people were taking a parallel route down the Mall. We waited until we started hearing that the march had been cancelled because the crowd was so big. So the crowd just started to flow down the Mall. And we went with it.

A young woman was perched on her boyfriend’s shoulders taking pictures. I handed her my camera.


They did this over and over. At one point, the man slowly rotated so she could get a 360 degree shot with another marcher’s camera. Still another act of kindness.

After another 30 or 40 minutes we came to a standstill at 7th Street. Mrs. RC and I decided to leave. we had been there for about 7 hours. The crowd was heading north and we needed to go south. Suffice it to say, we would make excellent salmon.

Many blocks from the Mall we were still going against the flow, this time of people just arriving at the march. It was about 3 pm. It made me wonder if this thing would ever end.

After leaving we made our way to a diner in Arlington across the river from DC. All the customers had come from the march. I check my phone which could now get service and saw the pictures from New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Paris, Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Paris, and Antarctica. Unreal.

I can’t say we had a good time at the march. Mostly we just stood around frozen in place by people. I was disappointed that I didn’t see anybody I knew even though there were probably 50 friends of mine in attendance. But I am glad I went. To add another dot in the crowd shots. To send a message. And to witness how a million people can get along with a few million acts of kindness.

I would be remiss if I did not thank all the police and EMTs who did their jobs with calm professionalism today.

Here are some photos.