By: Dede Cummings
As I stood waiting for my phone to charge outside the historical apartment building on West End Avenue in New York City at the biggest climate March in U.S. history, I watched the crowd from the sidewalk. It appeared like a long line stretching in either direction as far as the eye could see.
I marveled at the size, at the good humor of the marchers who had been waiting for two hours to even begin due to the unexpected surge in numbers—organizers expected around 150,000 at the most and instead our numbers swelled to over 300,000!
I was proud of my fellow Vermonters. I had woken up at 4:30 am with a delighted “chirp” on my mobile phone, “The Burlington busses just left!” From Maeve McBride, the statewide coordinator for 350 Vermont, one of the strongest statewide affiliates in the nation of the global organization founded by Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College professor and his students nine years ago as a winter term study group.
“Oh, God,” I thought, “Do I have to get up?”
I did, and I am eternally grateful to Maeve and all the other Vermont organizers, including the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, Post Oil Solutions, etc. for working together to make the 17 packed busses that left from all over the state flow almost seamlessly down the highways and freeways to the core of the big apple.
When I first stood in line, in front of Brattleboro Union High School, I imagined my warm bed, the chill of fall in the air, the woodpile still to be stacked, some garden work to be done, the half finished memoir about a woman biking across Afghanistan to finish…. But I began to see the beauty of this March, this gathering, as soon as we hit the road and I found myself with a bunch of Quakers, Marlboro College students, a Dummerston elementary school eight grader, and a variety of people from all walks of life—young and old.
As I stood watching the crowd, I thought of my cellphone, of the link to the hundreds of countries sharing photos of their own Peoples Climate Marches around the globe, sharing through the strong web of 350.org.
I asked the tall Slavic doorman if my phone was charged. He said, “I could lose my job because of this!” And he handed it back to me with a nod of approval.
I emerged from the building just as the planned 12:58 two minute global moment of silence started.
I saw the wave first: the silence moved up the crowd, the passersby on the sidewalks stopped to stare, as arms flew up in an arc that appeared to be one of supplication, but also of an intricate choreograph of quiet solidarity.
You could hear a pin drop, it was that quiet. As the silent marchers stood there, I looked back at our Vermont group, thousands strong, and I felt a surge of pride. “We can do this,” I thought. “I know we can!”