Columns / Discourse / January 25, 2017

Women’s March focused on compassion

This weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to D.C. with 52 of my fellow students to march in the Women’s March on Washington and cover it for TKS. I wasn’t sure what to expect and hadn’t read up enough on the march to know just how big of a deal it was.

I was nervous about getting behind on my homework in the midst of midterm season, nervous about getting sick on the bus and nervous about a plethora of other things. However, that nervousness did not necessarily reside once we got to D.C.

The sheer amount of people in D.C. and trying to travel in and out of the city was unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced before. I was immediately overwhelmed by the volume of people at the metro station that we were traveling from. I was ill-prepared both physically and mentally for the upcoming events, but I was equipped with a camera and notepad and knew there was no turning back at that point.

It was during the Metro ride when I let my nerves get the better of me, in the middle of a crowded subway car that more and more people were getting on at every single stop. It seemed like there was no air.

The only reason that I am not horrifically embarrassed by the way I reacted to just getting to the march is because of the amazing acts of love and compassion that the people (both from Knox and random people on the train) showed me when I was hurting. I was offered tissues, headphones, gum, and a student I had never met before offered me comfort without a thought.

Getting off the train, I was no longer overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all; I was overwhelmed by the love that was shown to me the instant that I showed I needed it.

We left the Metro and took the escalator up with hundreds of other people who were headed to the march, and passed hundreds more coming back from the march who were descending into the Metro station. Everybody cheered and clapped for each other as we passed each other, and I was in awe of the support and optimism that people were offering each other so willingly.

From then on, I was optimistic about the march, and I tried to be present in every single minute of it. I watched hundreds of thousands of Americans march on our capital, refusing to back down for what they believed in. In being in that type of environment where everybody is looking out for each other, starting chants together, complementing each other’s signs and hats and even just passing hand sanitizers and tissues to the other people waiting for the porta-potties, I was acutely aware of the fact that everybody was in it together.

Our group was hungry and tired, but every time we turned a corner we saw a new, exciting part of the march to join, and we just kept going. We kept marching and chanting; being a part of a crowd like that is something more than the word “inspiring” can convey.

While the march did have its flaws and a focus on white feminism, I was not expecting to be so taken aback by the love and support that every person at the march was offering each other. The entire experience was insanely positive, and although I returned to the bus exhausted, I also felt full. And despite being tired, hungry and stressed upon returning to Knox, I would not trade that experience for anything.

Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  column Compassion discourse movement Trump Women's March on Washington

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