Tuesday, January 23, 2007
March for Life.
March for Life Pictures
It was a cold, overcast and wet Monday as I headed out my apartment to meet the bus, which would take us to the March for Life in DC. The sun had yet to rise, and the ground had been freshly sprinkled with snow during the night, which remained near pristine except for my roommate’s tracks leading the way to the chartered bus.
I’ve never experienced much snow in my life – being from South Louisiana we don’t normally see snow, so I was delighted to see it that morning and enjoyed hearing the crunch it made under foot as I went out that morning. My delight changed shortly as I soon received a phone call explaining to me that most of the schools in the area were opening late because of the first show fall. As a result, many parents didn’t drop their kids off who had registered for the march. Out of the three 54 passenger busses one was cancelled, another was mostly full, and the last only had 10 passengers. Our once initially hoped for horde of 150 high schoolers and chaperones now became more of a hodgepodge gang. I prayed that the weather wouldn’t effect the turnout for the march for life as it did us.
Two and a half hours later and a viewing of “The Pirate’s of the Caribbean,” my hopes would soon be fulfilled. After a short walk to the Verizon Center entrance for the morning youth rally and mass, we were turned away due to lack of seating – The Verizon Center has a max seating of 20,000. Not only was the Verizon Center packed but also Constitution Hall and the National Shrine on Catholic U’s campus. Eventually someone directed us to St Patrick’s church a few blocks from the the Verizon Center for a morning mass – St. Pat’s too was standing room only, and if you looked at the people in the pews it appeared many were nearly sitting on top of each other.
This was my first time at the March for Life, and I had heard nearly every story and about every outlandish person and action possible witness by friends from past year’s marches. Everything form people dressed in lab coats covered in pig’s blood to protestors throwing eggs at the marchers – neither of which I saw. However, my experience was one of hope.
I say hope because of who I met at the march. Too often pro-life issues seem to be associated with right-wing politics and Christians and at times this was the impression I received from the masses there, as one could easily hear rosary being prayed and Dominican Friars doing Gregorian chant. However, when I looked around beyond the initial crowd, I no longer saw the republican Christians holding signs. Instead, I found myself bumping into Orthodox Jews, teenagers, medical doctors, Democrats, Feminists, and Hollywood producers. All of who were present to support life issues and to encourage the simple message: that women deserve better, and they need a supportive and loving community.
One such producer and march participant from Hollywood I met while marching was Jonathan Flora (picture top right), who I found on the steps of the Supreme Court building holding a sign which read, “I Regret Lost Fatherhood.” My initial reaction was shock, because I never associated or ever thought to imagine Hollywood a having pro-life ties. It was difficult to believe that someone from Hollywood would openly admit to being pro-life – don’t they get black listed for stuff like that? Not only was Jonathan a Hollywood producer, but he was also a producer for Disney.
As we spoke he let some of his story speak for itself. Once coercing his wife into aborting their son, he harbored silent, interior guilt for his decision. Years after encouraging that abortion, and now with two children of his own, Jonathan and his wife Deborah were at the march in the hope of creating awareness that abortion is not just a woman’s issue but also affects and involves men and that healing is possible.
By making his presence known, Jonathan specifically hoped to send out a message of healing to men whom might have coerced a loved one into having an abortion. Jonathan continued and said, “As men we need to be responsible for our young” and by encouraging abortion men are not being responsible. Recently, Jonathan finished producing and directing A Distant Thunder: a courtroom drama centered around the steps a doctor takes to ensure a successful abortion after a partial-birth abortion goes awry.
Another sure sign of hope for me came from a group of teens that seemed more at home at the march doing pro-life chants and cheers than on the couch watching TV was a group of approximately 130 Catholic high school students from St. Benedict at Auburndale, Bishop Byrne, Immaculate Conception, and Christian Brothers all located in the Memphis, Tennessee area.
This was the 18th consecutive year, I was told, that St. Benedict brought students to the march. I first noticed this fiery group of students when they were lining up for the march. Them on one side of the street shouting “Pro” and Catholic Univeristy of America students lined up on the other in a gang fight like manner responding with “Life.” After a few rounds of this, St. Benedict’s students would begin a pro-life cheer some of which included: “One, two, three, four, sell abortion out the door.” and “Pro-Choice that’s a lie. Babies don’t deserve to die.” Wherever this group went their energy and excitement spread to those around them.
I spoke briefly with the President of St. Benedict’s Teens for Life, Brad Mellancon, and he said that by driving from Memphis, Tennessee and marching in the inclement weather, they “hoped to influence government officials, overturn abortion, make the country a better place to live, and to promote the respect for all life.” With a contagious spirit the Teens for Life from St. Benedict and the other Memphis schools proved a true witness and testimony for today’s youth and hope for tomorrow’s leadership.
Although there is no official count for the number of participants, I heard an estimated high of 150,000 marchers at this year’s pro-life rally and march. The low end of the spectrum are the 20,000 plus Catholics that packed the Verizon Center on F Street, the 300 plus at Constitution Hall, the overflowing numbers at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the 100s at nearby local churches all celebrating mass before the start of the day’s events. This does not include the people that were turned away by security guards for lack of seating in the Verizon Center, at Constitution Hall, and the numbers of people already participating in the rally listening to pro-life speakers at the staging point.
One voice can be ignored or drowned out, but what about the voices of thousands?