Monday, July 21, 2014

Mrs. Jones Goes to Washington

In the summer of 2009 I heard about a march and rally protesting out-of-control government spending and unconstitutional mandates being organized for September 12 in Washington D.C. and decided I wanted to go. I had bought a T-shirt and cap that said "We the People" and was deciding what kind of sign to make when I heard there was to be a group of Colonial-era re-enactors, including a fife and drum corps, who were to lead the march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the rally at the U.S. Capitol. I emailed the man organizing the re-enactors and told him I was a professional piccolo player, and could I join them? He said to dress as a Colonial militiaman and meet them in Freedom Plaza at 9:00 a.m.

After a little research I put together a costume on short notice, and bought a purse big enough to carry my piccolo on the plane with me. I explained to the TSA guys on both flights that the funny-looking case in my purse was a piccolo. One of them said, "Hmm, we don't see many of those."

I stayed with my aunt, who lived in Fairfax, Virginia, and she took me to the metro station to catch the 7:00 train, so we had to leave her house at 6:30 (remember that time….). The train was FULL of people going to the march, many with signs, patriotic shirts and hats, but I was the only person in "period costume" so I got a lot of attention. Everyone I met that day was so friendly and eager to say where they were from. It turns out there were people from ALL 50 states at the march and rally!
Me with the dark brown waistcoat
I arrived at Freedom Plaza (just east of the White House) at 7:45 and already there were hundreds of people waiting for the start of the march. I found our "leader" and a group of re-enactors from Georgia. They had wonderful costumes, much better than mine. There were five musicians in the group: one drummer, one fifer who also played piccolo (and knew what she was doing), her husband who was shaky but reliable on fife, and two beginners. Fortunately a four-person fife and drum outfit from Delaware showed up who REALLY knew what they were doing. We would not have sounded so great without them!
The fife and drum corps from Delaware
The march wasn't supposed to begin until 11:30, but there were SO many thousands of people crowding the two block wide plaza, spilling into the streets and adjoining blocks that the police said we had to begin at 9:30 just to relieve the "congestion"! So our "fearless leader" led the march, followed by his "sargeant-at-arms" who gave the commands (we had to MARCH like a regular militia unit), and then our fife and drum "corps" followed marching in a single line across the street (I was on the end on the south side).
Halting in front of the Capitol
Photo op in front of Capitol
Not only did we play "Yankee Doodle" (and I now know the "authentic" version) but "Rally Around the Flag," "Rakes of Mallow," and several other songs. I learned the "fife up" drill, and then had to guess what key we were playing in and "sight-read" (actually "hear-read") while marching in step, avoiding people getting in our way, AND breathing! It had been a l-o-n-g time since I was in a marching band....

We marched to the front just below the Capitol steps. Eventually we had to move farther back, but we still had a great view of the speakers. Each and every person present was an average American--young, old, black, white, brown, male, female, and many had never done anything like it before. Many carried creative and original signs, others carried flags: American, "Don't Tread on Me," and many, many states' flags. It was inspiring to see flags from nearly every state!

The national news reported that there were only "60,000" people, but that is NOT true. There were easily 1.5 million, maybe more. There was a SEA of people from the Capitol all the way to the Washington Monument, plus there were people spilled out to either side of the Capitol and way down all the other streets! It was an absolutely amazing sight!

The most moving moment for me was when we all sang the National Anthem---a million voices raised together! Wow!

We shouted ourselves hoarse cheering (and sometimes booing) as well as chanting "U.S.A." but the atmosphere was more like a gigantic pep rally, not an "angry mob." It was so encouraging that so many came from so far to participate, and many of the speakers (a black Marine, I felt, was the very best) were outstanding and spoke from the heart. Periodically a lady came to the mike and said, "Nancy Pelosi, can you hear us now?" and we would FILL the air with noise!!!

I did leave at 3:00 p.m. There were more speakers yet to come, but after being on my feet since 7:30 I was exhausted. I hadn't seen a bathroom since 6:30 so hadn't been drinking my water and gatorade like I should have, so I thought I'd head back before it got so crowded that I would collapse. Even so, enough of the others were also leaving that I had to wait 45 minutes at the metro station for the train (after walking more than a mile back from the Capitol) and when a train finally came had to stand crammed like a sardine for the almost one hour ride back to Fairfax. The train was slower than usual. Everyone was very kind and patient, though, even though most of them were just as tired as I was.

By the time I got back to my aunt's house it was 5:30. Eleven hours is a l-o-n-g time without a bathroom. Yikes!

I'm SO thankful I was able to go and dress up and play my piccolo and be a part of such an amazing event with a couple million fellow American patriots. And I was so inspired I went home and formed a fife and drum corps, but that's the subject of another blog entry….

This is a video one of the re-enactors made. Near the beginning you can see (and hear) me--I had a long brown ponytail back then! Once the march begins I'm on the far end, the only one with a dark brown waistcoat.

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