There was joy. Inspiration. Purpose. And we marched on.

There was joy. Inspiration. Purpose. And we marched on.

For 14 hours in NYC, we were stripped to the most basic layer of ourselves

MARLBORO — Fourteen hours of standing: that's one thing I remember about the People's Climate March in New York City last month.

The day started with a 7 a.m. arrival to help unload art banners. I got a reminder text from organizers at 6:20 a.m. to head to 61st Street and look for a white van. When I arrived, there were two, and I jumped in to help organizers from the South Bronx build their message van for the march.

With the van assembled, I headed across the street to unload 100 life preservers, each bearing both a name of an area impacted by climate change and some messages of hope. Attached to long poles, these would be a striking image during the march.

The first politician I saw was Bernie Sanders, my Senator, up early, looking unassuming and speaking to press. Someone from Vermont yelled out, “Bernie! I'm your constituent!” And he gave her a big hug.

Among the beautiful moments at the march was the assemblage of hundreds of police officers protecting our right to protest for Mother Earth.

Another was the many people behind the barriers of the march route, who came out with their own signs and statements of support for action on climate change. It felt as if they were supporting us, too, seeing us not just as a cause but also as people.

I smiled at a dozen who were meditating as they faced us on the grass along the route.

* * *

Although I heard there were some counterprotesters shouting “Climate change is natural” from beyond the barricades, their little band meant nothing compared to 400,000 people in the streets with a commonsense message. The disparity of viewpoints and the mismatch of numbers on either side stood in contrast to the “debate” that mainstream media drums up to this day.

I was at the front of the march alongside groups who are among or who work with those most impacted by climate change and its attendant drivers and forces: the chemical industry, the poverty industry, the war industry.

With us, covering two Manhattan blocks, were indigenous people, also at the front lines of climate change, struggling against the latest attempts to land grab resources from their places and against the ongoing effects of pollution, poverty, and sickness resulting from successful efforts to do so over many years.

The drums, the women's voices, the fragrant smudges: all carried my spirit over the march and across my life, my mother's life, my children's life, and the life of their father, connecting me through time and space to the life energy of everyone assembled and those thinking hard about the day from their places.

* * *

At 12:58, while the front of the march was in Times Square, with Jay-Z and Beyonce looking half-impressed from their billboard perch, all hands went up in interlocked pose, and the crowd went dead silent.

We knew this was coming: two minutes of silence to consider those affected and lost to climate change and extreme weather. The persons, the animals, the plants. The hope.

Does quiet happen in New York City? It did then. You could hear people's hearts beating.

And inside me, I could feel the energy of all life, of all these people here to witness - on behalf of many others - the dire circumstances that brought us together to defend our birthright.

I was shaking. Tears were flowing. Then the quiet lifted to a mighty roar. The people all around sounded the climate alarm.

There was joy. Inspiration. Purpose. And we marched on.

* * *

It took 2{1/2} hours to march the full route. On 11th Avenue, up the only little hill we encountered (the only one in Manhattan?) you could see the line of marchers coming in and coming in and coming in. My friend called his son after a half an hour to ask, “Where are you?” He hadn't stepped off 86th Street yet - that's how big the march was.

At the end of the route, I saw many friends and many colleagues in the fight for environmental health and justice and the fight for chemical and dirty-industry reform.

But I saw more than just people I knew on the train later that day, heading to the Religions of the Earth evening service.

The trains were crowded, as usual. But on this day, I saw new compadres, new compañeros - my allies, my team. People of all ages, shades, and appearance with their signs, their buttons, their bandanas wrapped in allegiance.

It was as if we were all in our underwear: stripped to the most basic layer of ourselves, showing what counts: our sameness, our commonality. It was personal. Revealing. Comforting.

The day before, I wouldn't have seen them. The next day, I won't recognize them so quickly. But seeing them there, so many - seeing how different and the same they are to me - I suppose I will never forget they are there. They are here.

Maybe we need buttons, stickers, bandanas going forward. Not with one organization's name or another, but something about vision and purpose.

Something that says: Our climate. Our purpose. Our power.

Something to remind us - for us to see in one another - that we have the right, we have the numbers, we have our mission.

We can do this.

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