It began with a rallying cry for reasonableness from Jon Stewart, who is quite possibly one of the most influential people in the country. From the moment he announced that he and his fellow Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert would host a “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington DC on October 30, I knew I would be there.
But how to go about getting to DC? I had already had a dreadful experience on the “Chinatown” buses and the other low-cost bus services like MegaBus or BoltBus were selling out quickly! Enter, Arianna Huffington, the millionaire founder of “The Huffington Post,” the left leaning news/opinion site, who announced on Stewart’s “The Daily Show” that she would provide free roundtrip buses from NYC to DC for anyone who was interested.
10,000 people, myself included, heeded her call, gathering at Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) at 5:30am on Saturday morning. Even at that early hour, the environment was electric and I made some new friends both on the 7 train (which was chock full of rally-goers) and in the lengthy line to board the buses.
The boarding process was incredibly disorganized (it didn’t help that they only had four people to check 10,000 peoples ID’s!) and we left much later than we were supposed to (and hence arrived in DC after the rally had started). But the experience of the journey was a mighty special one, as I chatted with my newfound friends as if we’d known each other for years! Heck even Arianna Huffington herself made an appearance prior to our departure to encourage us on!
All buses arrived at DC’s RFK Memorial Stadium, where we hustled and bustled our way to the Metro, which was packed to the gills with people trying to buy a fare card. Let me just say that I wish the folks in DC would take a hint from the folks in NYC…when there’s a big event, like say the Halloween Parade, they just let folks in for free as to not create a backlog!
Some 30 minutes and five stops later, we emerged to the street only to discover that cell phone towers were jammed! There was no need to ask for directions as we followed the seemingly endless crowd towards the mall.
Due to our late departure, the intense traffic and the madness at the Metro, we arrived nearly halfway through the 3 hour rally only to find the Mall filled with what has reported to be some 250,000 people. A friend reported that the crowd almost backed up to the Washington Monument, a full mile away from the U.S. Capitol Building, where the rally stage was. She even took a photo of what the crowds back there looked like, as seen below.
Unfortunately, the organizers of the rally did not plan for nearly as many people that showed up and, as such, speakers and jumbotrons were in short supply and, due to the crowds, it was nearly impossible for us to tell what was going on. So we settled on wandering the fringes of the crowd and checking out their fantastic signs!
When I say it was crowded, I mean that people were clamboring for spots to be able to see, be it up a tree or even on a Porta-Potty!
Though there were quite a few fringe groups (MoveOn.org’s “Republicorp” and the “9/11 Truth” folks made their presence known) and the crowd was largely liberal (note the anti-Tea Party signs), this was not a political rally. The message, which Jon Stewart really hit home in his closing speech (seen below), is best summed up in this single quote: “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.”
|Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear|
|Jon Stewart – Moment of Sincerity|
The whole premise behind the day was civility and reasonableness and that was best expressed through the frustrations of the day. Yes, boarding those buses was amazingly disorganized. Yes, we were late to the rally. Yes, we couldn’t really see or hear anything. But nobody ever complained or got upset (a stark contrast to my last experience when things went wrong). In fact, in the end, the whole day was a pretty fantastic experience! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being totally surrounded by people united for a single cause!
Were you at the Rally? What sort of experience did you have?