by Maria Lebron, Columnist for Clarifying Catholicism
Coming from a suburb outside of Washington, just an hour outside the city, going to the annual March for Life was a common experience. I could go with my school, or my Church, my family, or just a couple of friends. But as a freshman coming to college in D.C., I was super excited to be able to just hop on the red line on the Metro, ride 15 minutes downtown to Gallery Place and be right in the heart of the action.
I discovered that since Catholic University is so close to the National Mall, every year they host hundreds of high schoolers from across the nation inside their Athletic Center, the Raymond A. Dufour center (or the Duf as it is affectionately called by students). In addition, the school assists with the Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception which attracts thousands, so campus ministry was calling for many volunteers to help with both events. My friends and I decided to work the overnight shift at the Duf and I was super excited when the Thursday before the March arrived. We had to be there at 9, so I packed up a small backpack with some snacks, a phone charger, a toothbrush and toothbrush, a pillow, and a sleeping bag, threw on my teal staff shirt, and headed over to the Duf.
Upon arriving, the place was already bustling with high schoolers who had already arrived. We headed upstairs to the volunteer room to get briefed for the night. Each volunteer had to sign up for at least a one-hour shift for one of the jobs. These jobs included manning the front desk, watching the showers to make sure the correct people went in at the proper times, saying the rosary at midnight, and walking around the upstairs track while the students slept. I signed up for to watch the showers from 10-11 and also to man the front desk from 1-2. Watching the showers mostly consisted of hanging out with my friends and goofing off, although I did have to tell one man that only the children could shower at that time and that he would have to wait until the morning to shower.
When I was done with my shower shift, I headed upstairs to the volunteer room and played board games until my next shift at 1 at the information desk. I just had to sit by the door to make sure that no one went in or out and also to help any student that may need anything during the night. This shift totally consisted of talking with my friends. After this, I could have gone to sleep, but when I went back upstairs I decided to play more games including this one super fun game called Werewolf (10/10 would highly recommend). A group of about 10 of us volunteers ended up playing this game until 4 am, so by that point we just decided to stay up all night. The rest of the night I just hung out by the pool, and on the ground in random places. We woke the students up at 5:45 although many were waking up earlier than that. I ended up leaving around 6 a.m. so that I could fit in a quick nap before heading to the March.
My friends and I gathered up our stuff and made the trek back to our dorm and when my head hit the pillow, I passed out. Almost instantly it felt like my alarm was going off at 8:30. I got dressed, slapped on some makeup so I could somewhat cover up my dark circles from the night before, and then grabbed Starbucks (an Iced White Chocolate mocha of course), and headed to Caldwell auditorium where the whole CUA group was meeting at 9:30. Everyone sat on the ground while there were a couple speeches, and then a blessing by the campus chaplain Fr. Jude, and then as a group we migrated to the side of the Basilica for a group picture, and off we headed to the metro. It must have been a sight for the few people already on the metro as it pulled up to the CUA stop where hundreds of students were crowding the platforms. We managed to squeeze on as many people as possible, and headed downtown.
When we got off the Metro, the group headed towards the Mall where there was the rally before the March. It was exhilarating walking in such a large group and through DC where most people were heading to a rally to stand up for a cause that you feel so passionate about. I picked up a couple of signs from people handing them out on the streets as we walked to the National Mall. When we arrived, my friends and I took pictures with the massive Washington Monument behind us as words from the speakers at the rally echoed in the background. We didn’t have a great view of the stage because we were standing to the side behind it, so we just hung out with people until we headed to the streets to march.
The March itself went by in a blur as we walked in solidarity for the unborn. We walked past people praying and singing and chanting and the energy was palpable. At one point as we were walking up the hill to the Supreme Court, I turned around and you could see the unending trail of people behind us. I was awestruck at the hundreds of thousands of people who had showed up to fight for this cause. Arriving at the Supreme Court was when we encountered the protestors who were very peaceful as they stood there with signs and occasionally chanting. But they were drowned out by the rally put on by Students for Life of America who had set up a stage with a sound system and they were playing music and having speakers.
In high school, I had never stayed at the March until it reached the Supreme Court, so it was exciting to experience that. I actually ran into my family who I had known was at the March but I didn’t know they were in that spot at that time. After that, my friends and I decided to head over to Union Station, where we grabbed lunch and hopped on the Metro back to campus. All in all, it was an awesome time and a cool experience actually living in DC rather than driving in.