By: Ana Debernardo – February 2014
I’ve just returned home after spending four days in Washington, D.C., at the March for Life. About 80 kids from my school, and a dozen chaperones, take two buses every year. This year was my second consecutive year attending (as I am a sophomore). Both years, I was inspired to see how many people come together to fight for the common cause of defending life. Not only was there a record-breaking count this year of over 700,000 people, but the quantity of states AND countries represented was beyond belief.
Our trip began on Monday night with a Mass at our school before boarding our buses for the 10 hour drive ahead of us. Tuesday morning, we arrived in D.C. with plans to visit famous landmarks and explore the city. Our first stop was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We were divided into small groups led by one of our teachers, and began touring the Shrine. After spending one hour admiring the general splendor, we lost track of time and seemed to forget that we still had the whole day to walk around D.C. Mesmerized by the architectural and inspiring surroundings inside the Shrine, we didn’t realize that it had begun to snow—heavily. Nevertheless, our group was too enthused to let the snow hold us back.
We skipped to the Metro in linked arms, singing songs and in overall high spirits. Next stop: the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Another hour passed as we walked around the museum looking at all the exhibits, and once again, losing ourselves in the moment, we were ignorant of the fact that the snow had turned into a minor blizzard. Still, we refused to let this bother us and continued on with our sightseeing –this time, completely on foot. We saw the White House, the Vietnam and World War II memorials, and the Lincoln and Washington monuments. By the middle of the day, when I would normally be in my third class, we had trudged through 9 miles of snow in frigid weather. Although normally I would have been extremely bothered by these conditions (since I much prefer the warm weather), I realized that I was touring our nation’s capital with all my friends and I was incandescent with happiness. People were passing around hand warmers and taking turns with gloves. Yet, out of this enormous group of teenagers, not one complained.
After we had ended our tourism portion of the trip, we traveled to Union Station to grab lunch and eventually re-boarded our buses. The last stop of the day was an AMAZING concert by an incredibly gifted Christian singer named Matt Maher. Thousands of teenagers filled the immense arena, hands pointed to heaven and voices lifted in praise. It was indescribable seeing all these young people coming together to worship in such a profound way. For me, it is sometimes hard to believe that there exist kids of my age who are as passionate about these things as I am, and it was such a refreshing feeling to see them so engaged. Following the concert, we boarded our buses for the last time, wrapping up our exhausting yet wonderful first day. No, we did not mess around all night and create mayhem upon arrival to the hotel –we were too tired. I, for one, had never fallen asleep faster in my life.
The third day of our pilgrimage began with an early 6 o’clock breakfast. Following our meal, we headed to a new church to hear Mass and then made our way to the rally. Our objective was to march up Capitol Hill toward our final destination: the Supreme Court building. Despite the misleading media portrayals of our rally, this march was a completely friendly and good-spirited protest. No one was shouting negative comments, but instead people were cheerfully chanting defense-of-life messages. There was no kind of violence initiated, nor were there any crazed marchers. On the contrary, I had never been surrounded by such amiable people. Many that I had never seen before approached us and started genuine conversations inquiring after our schools, whether or not it was our first time on the March, and even hugging us before heading their separate ways. It got me wondering what the world would be like had all of its prior inhabitants been as neighborly and bona fide in their treatment of one another. At the conclusion of the march, we went to yet another church for some sharing of thoughts on the day and private reflection time.
One of the speeches given there particularly hit home for me. The speaker said that the reason we march is not only to defend the unborn babies who don’t have the ability to defend their own lives, but also to defend general human dignity. An elite member of society, and a homeless man on the street, are totally equal, in that they share in the GIFT of life. Every person in the world, no matter how rich or how poor, or how high or low his social class, share in this gift. And not one person can take this right to life away from another. We march because everyone has an innate right to live and deserves the opportunities that come connaturally with life.
Our pilgrimage was winding down as the next day approached. Thursday morning came and our trip was nearly over. We had our final breakfast at the hotel, packed our bags, heard one final Mass, and just like that, we were headed home.
Of all the experiences of my life, I can honestly say the March for Life has been the most rewarding, both spiritually and emotionally. I strongly encourage people of all ages to consider making this trip in the future because not only will you have a great time, but it could potentially change your life in more ways than one.
You can email Ana at: email@example.com or Attention: ANA to firstname.lastname@example.org