WASHINGTON, D.C . - Despite the bitter cold, an estimated 400 people left Sussex County by 6:00 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, to join the estimated 500,000 who gathered there to show their support of the pro-life movement.
Buses left from Vernon, Lafayette, Swartswood, Newton, Blairstown, Netcong, Pope John XXIII High School (Sparta), and Milford, Pa. The Alternative Press rode along with 35 people on the Newton bus, which left from St. Joseph’s Church, and was sponsored by the Sussex County Right to Life group.
On the bus ride, riders watched a video filmed just after President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Nellie Gray held a press conference. Gray had been a lawyer for the Department of Labor who retired in 1974 to galvanize a movement against the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. She was the organizer for the March for Life for forty years until her death last August. This year, the march was scheduled for Jan. 25, due to Obama’s second inauguration last Monday.
On the video, Gray said, “I come from WWII.” (Gray joined the Women’s Army Corps just after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.) “When I heard about abortion and Roe v. Wade, I couldn’t believe this was America. Then I heard it was going to the Supreme Court and I thought ‘That’s the end of it.’”
She continued, “At the Nuremberg Trials, the principles were established to decree crimes against humanity. We helped establish those principles and sat in judgment of those crimes. We were faced with pictures of the Holocaust. Soon after Roe v. Wade, a dumpster was found in California with bodies of babies. The people who came to pick up the dumpster were horrified. Once you see the dumpster and think about the Nuremberg Trials, then you see the evil.”
The bus dropped off the group at the Capitol Holiday Inn near 4th Street, NW at about 12:15 p.m. There, a room had been reserved for the group.
On the way over to the National Mall (between 7th and 9th Streets) where the rally was being held, the group of 100 students from Pope John XXIII High School, Sparta, crossed the street. They were easily identified by their blue and gold scarves emblazoned with “Lions for Life.”
The Alternative Press, along with the crowd, approached the Mall from the rear of the stage. It was impossible to get to the front, due to the massive crowd, which was roaring in response to a question from United States Senator Paul Rand, (R-KY): “Can a nation conceived in liberty carry its head high if it denies protection to the youngest and most vulnerable of its citizens?”
Rick Santorum, former United States Senator (R-PA), told the crowd what doctors told him and his wife when a serious genetic abnormality was detected in his daughter, Bella, before she was born. Santorum said doctors suggested abortion, “It would be better for her.”
Santorum continued, “Death is never better, never better. She is joy. We are better because of Bella.”
After his speech, Santorum walked over and shook hands with the Pope John students.
United States representative Chris Smith, (R-NJ) quoted part of Monday’s inaugural speech given by President Obama. “President Obama said ‘together, we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, that all are created equal. And our journey is not complete until all of our children are cared for and cherished, and always safe from harm.’”
Smith then said, “We, indeed, Mr. President, must care for the vulnerable. But that also includes the unborn and their mothers. Our journey is not complete until all children, especially children in the womb, are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”
At 1:30 p.m., the rally ended with the crowd singing “God Bless America,” and the slow march began to the Supreme Court Building, via Constitution Avenue. Large crowds of high school and college students could be identified by their unifying scarves, hats, and banners. Posters that read, “I am the pro-life generation,” “Personhood for all, no matter how small,” “Defend Life,” and “DeFund Planned Parenthood,” dotted the horizon, as well those that said, "I regret having an abortion," "Fathers regret lost children," and "Conceived through rape, I love my life." Many banners also showed the names of the groups present.
Songs and prayers could be heard, as well as chanting, “We like babies, yes we do, we like babies, how about you?”
There were representatives from all over the country, from every race and religion, although the crowd was predominantly Christian.
Along the route, a group called Created Equal reserved space to set up a giant “jumbo-thon” showing graphic images of aborted fetuses. A placard read “Fetus is Latin for offspring.”
A man with a microphone said, “Photographs of injustice have been used by every activist group since photography existed. Abortion must be seen to be felt. Words have lost their meaning.”
Near them, another group of giant video screens challenged the Catholic Church for not doing enough. "55 million lives lost, where are you?"
Climbing Capitol Hill, the crowd extended further than the eye could see in all directions. A large group of young people from St. John Cantius in Chicago, held bright yellow balloons, and cheered the crowd with their yellow sweatshirts stamped with “LIFE,” along with exuberant singing and drumming.
After passing the Capitol Building, the march slowed to turn right onto First Street, so great were the numbers. It marched to its destination: the Supreme Court Building. Directly across the street, the back of the Capitol Building was visible. Police in riot gear lined up along the street, only interacting with the crowd to announce that no signs could be taken on the sidewalk. Citizens and patriots streamed past, letting their very presence speak to the silent marble. The snow began falling, and in response students began dancing and catching snowflakes.
On the walk back to the hotel, longs lines could be seen at the House Office Buildings on Capitol Hill, down the steps and around the corner, people waiting to see their representatives. Pro-Life store owners displayed their support, putting up anti-abortion signs in their shops. After briefly warming up, the Sussex County group re-entered the buses for the ride home.
The Alternative Press interviewed several fellow riders on the way back to New Jersey.
Karen Davis, wife of Deacon Davis from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Sandyston said, “I was blown away by the numbers and enthusiasm of the young people. They get it, they think about those that aren’t here and realize how they were the ones who made it here. I think they take it extremely personally.”
Archpriest Samuel Kedala from the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church of Wantage said, “We continue to pray that the President and Supreme Court will change their ways and rid us of this great sin.”
A Wantage resident, from Romania, said she hopes to return to her country and build a March for Life there. “Communism has fallen,” she said, “but the loss of life is terrible.”
Connor Doherty, a senior at Kittatinny High School said, “I’ve been going to this rally since I was born. It’s the one issue that is clear-cut to me. I am the captain of our Debate Club. Usually, I am indecisive, or at least, can see both sides of an issue. But on this, I can see only reasons for life. Some ask ‘When is it a human being?’ I mean, if a baby is born early, what does that say?”
On the way back, the bus stopped at a rest area in Delaware. Seventeen buses and thousands of people created traffic jams and 30 minute waits on lines for a slice of pizza. Even so, the crowd was good natured, very polite, friendly, and eager to talk.
Snips of conversation were overhead. "This is what is wrong with our Social Security system, there are 55 million people not contributing. Who will take care of our seniors? Their children were supposed to do it." "There would be no over-population problem because people would adjust their lives to take care of the families they have." "It is sick that in our beloved country, people are having abortions in order to choose the gender of their child." "I think it was good those pictures were there, people do need to see what they are talking about."
One former Hopatcong resident, Mary Ann Tangel, currently from Long Island, has been attending the march for many years, with her husband and children. She said, “The trend is definitely getting younger. It used to be called the ‘grey haired march,’ but now it’s mostly youth. It’s also getting larger, or at least it’s not getting smaller.”
Several told The Alternative Press they predicted that the event would be underplayed by the media. John Matits, from St. Michael’s, Netcong, said the numbers could be understood simply from the length of time it took to finish the march. He reported that he finished at 3:45 p.m., well over two hours after it started, and “there were tremendous groups behind me.”
Fr. Jandernoa of St. Jude’s in Blairstown also noted that a lot of people did not attend because of the cold and snow. “If everyone really went, it would have been overwhelming.”
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