The day after the election of Donald Trump, a woman in my town named Sarah, made a post on Facebook asking if anyone needed a hug.
“Would anyone be interested in meeting tonight at city plaza for an hour of solidarity? Is it too short notice? I feel the need to show up somewhere and show support for my LGBT+, Muslim, immigrant, disabled and otherwise marginalized neighbors.”
Forty people showed up with candles and signs.
And she planned another for that Saturday, for all of us who missed the first last-minute message. The turn out more than doubled. I was one.
We lit candles, Sarah brought her guitar and we sang “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen who had died that week (I watched Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton sign the very same song later than night on SNL), we signed a peace banner and we listened to each other’s stories.
That may sound a little too “hippie” for some, but we needed community after such a divisive and angry election. We were just ordinary people — moms, dads, teachers, students, couples, professionals — and we needed to hear from each other. We needed to know we were not alone in our concern for our country and the world. Here’s some of what was shared that night:
- “With all the negativity, if I can’t find and do something positive, I feel like I would just disappear.”
- An immigrant, who has lived here for 28 years, said she now feels like she has to justify why she’s here.
- Another family came to America one month after Obama was elected. On Tuesday night, they felt like their world crumbled around them.
- “I don’t have dark skin, I don’t have an accent, but I am an immigrant and I am scared.”
- “I have felt nauseous since Wednesday. A Muslim friend called to ask if she can hide in my basement.”
- Teachers spoke up about their scared students.
- A local Muslim woman said their family was targeted several years ago. Firecrackers were lit in their yard and their home was damaged.
- “We shouldn’t have to be here. This is not who we are.”
- “Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. It’s all on the line. I don’t know what to do.”
“Let’s start here,” Sarah, the organizer, said.
And boy did she. Sarah, another woman named Elizabeth, and a small group of committed citizens began meeting regularly. They started calling themselves Plateaupians for Peace. They made a Facebook group and a web page. The group grew. People talked, shared information and stories.
Not long after, news of a national Woman’s March started to spread. Sarah asked if anyone would be interested in chartering a bus. Two months later, the hug grew into a bus grew into 19 buses and nearly 1,000 people.
I had nothing to do with the massive effort that went into organizing the day, but I did volunteer to be a bus steward.
We were up, and at the park and ride at sunrise.
Here I am checking in people at one of three bus stops.
Here’s just part of the bus queue! I brought extra poster board and sharpies, and walked the line to offer them up. I played a very small part in the historic day, but it felt GREAT to be actively doing something. Gather enough snowflakes and you make an avalanche!
Here are some fellow bus stewards getting their “marching orders” for what to tell people on our bus.
The buses pulled up, we politely loaded…
…and we were off!