I saw her for the first time in the Hart Building where our New York Senators had their offices, mounting the marble staircase. Last year, we ran into each other at the Maryland House rest stop on 95. I have seen Barbara, my mother’s childhood friend, in or on the way to Washington DC for the March for Life reliably every year. You could bet on it.
It struck us as one of the quirky benefits of having pro-life activism embedded in your family’s culture. We have family friends who have moved to Virginia whom we expect to see as we round the bend from Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court. We hold a happy reunion for a few minutes or many, depending on the weather. We feel at home among the impressive white buildings and help one another find rallies and masses, rest rooms and lost friends. We congregate at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill on New Jersey Ave where the March for Life has a convention and pro-life displays. We sit down anywhere we can, the floor, pull our chilly hands out of gloves, gratefully sip coffee and talk about church and pro-life celebrities we have seen and whose cameras might show us to the folks at home.
Other memories stand out. . . in 2004 I was interviewed on my opinion John Kerry’s Catholicism by Japanese TV. I would love to see if they dubbed it in Japanese. Just before Hillary Clinton announced she would run for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s senate seat in New York State I told the intern he had posted in the hallway with a clipboard., she dropped the clipboard in shock and said, “She IS! Heck, I’m movin’ to Canada!” then looked around sheepishly to see who overheard her.
It is strange to reflect how much one can have a sense of community in a group of half a million activists from around the nation. But I have been coming to the March for Life since my teens, with a brief break in my self-centered post-college years.
I first came on the March for Life 1977, at 15. I rode with a friends’ parish bus. Together, Monica and I had started the pro-life club at our high school, Our Lady of Mercy Academy on Long Island. We were warmly greeted by the elderly and middle aged ladies on the bus, “Its nice to see young people join us”. Now, ahem, much older, I am the middle-aged lady who once again stands out in the crowd, now transformed and multiplied many times into a boundless, energetic sea of youth.
Most times my family comes down in different busses. I often take Amtrak and attend functions before and after the March, my girls prefer to ride with friends. We always tried to meet at some point. Particularly poignant in retrospect is 2009, when I was beginning my apostolate KIDS Keep Infants with Down Syndrome. My mother, 73 brought 12 year old Isabella with her and met the new group thanks to cell phones, on the Mall. She walked with us to Capitol Hill where she promised to send greetings to a Sister of Life from her mom. It was mom's last year on earth, but she was at the March nine months before succumbing to cancer. God bless her spunk!
This year, stuck home with the flu, Christina and I scan the crowd on EWTN looking for Gabbi who attended with Franciscan University and Bella who went with our parish youth group. They met by chance at the Basilica. One more of those happy coincidences pro-lifers seem to count on.
My KIDS group, bravely led by co-founder, Eileen Haupt, whose hand holds the sign in this photo, marched on without me, and this photo made it to the Washington Post blog. Even if I never make it again, part of my legacy will always be marching for life.