Editor’s Note: Jenny Tato is a Dialogue Facilitator working with us this semester who was dedicated enough to make the trip to NYC recently for the People’s Climate March. We asked her to share her experience as we believe conversation – and the call for it – can take myriad shapes and forms. Shout out to everyone who attended the march. Stories like Jenny’s (along with countless others) and the incredible turnout for the event continue to inspire us to create conversations that matter around climate change!
I woke up at 3am early Sunday Morning, sleepy-eyed, running on only couple of hours of sleep. I combed over my messy hair, got dressed really fast and packed a small backpack with water, a sweatshirt and my wallet. Half asleep, I mounted my bike to go to the bus stop. I got to the bus stop, climbed onto the bus and sat next to a friend. I looked up to the front of the bus as one of the leaders of Fossil Free PSU greeted us with excitement, “Alright, everyone! In five hours we will be in New York City marching for climate change! Here we go!” I smiled as everyone hooted and hollered with excitement.
I must have quickly fallen asleep again, because soon after I woke up to the familiar sight of New York City. As we drove to the block where the march would begin, I was immediately awake and filled with anticipation. Here I was: I had the chance have my voice heard about the things I care the most about; climate change, sustainability, food production, and human rights. Better yet, here I was at a place where I would meet others who care just as much as I do about these issues, so much so that we all came to one place to march and speak out about them together.
I heard from many people that this was going to be the biggest social demonstration on climate change in history. However, nothing could have prepared me for the image of hundreds of thousands of people in one place, marching for change. I could try to describe every moment from getting off the bus stop until we got to our place in the march, but there would be no description that would be able to translate the feeling of home that overcame me as I walked among people who truly care about the future of humans and earth.
Signs that were held and displayed all throughout the crowds of people were by far the craziest details of the march. People in advertising would have been all over that shit. It was like there was a competition to see who could reach out in the most creative way to someone who couldn’t care less about climate change and force them to care by writing a small, yet powerful statement on a recycled cardboard pizza box. People from all over the world came to this march. The colors of the world were there and everyone embraced each other with peace, love and kindness. The LGBT community, Indigenous peoples, or college students; you name it and I bet they were there.
Once my group got to the part of the march for people in education designated as “the future” section, we all realized how many people were truly a part of the march. We couldn’t even see the street anymore, just the tops of people’s heads, their signs and flags. Helicopters passed by overhead and the energy of the crowd started to buzz from excitement and anticipation for the march to begin. Here it was; the moment to show how much we truly care because for us we know the time is here. The time for action is now. The people are speaking out and we could not be ignored. People made up chants that other would catch on to incredibly fast and soon strangers next to me became a friend with a common love for our planet and one voice shouting out the need to protect it.
The march begun and then it ended. It was one of the most exhausting days of my life. I screamed, stood, walked, chanted and held up signs for over seven hours. Running off of only a couple of hours of sleep it was truly one big delirious mess. All of these things happened but its not what stands out for me on that day. The one thing I will always remember is the moment of silence. At 12:58pm we were told that we were going to have a moment of silence for all of those who had lost their lives or had been affected in some way by climate change. This silence was to last two minutes and then it was to be followed by our shouts. Raising our voices to the world in hopes that people will realize climate change is happening, it’s real, it’s here, and now that you’ve heard our voices: if you choose to not respond then you’ve ignored not just us but yourselves – and the world now knows.
The silence didn’t last anywhere near two minutes (or so my watch said) but I don’t even remember how long it did last because at that moment, 12:58pm, it seemed like the whole world went quiet to grieve and time didn’t exist for me anymore. In that moment all I could hear were the birds and it was as if they knew we were fighting for them as our silence soothed them and asked them to hold on. 12:58pm. Our hands went up in the air and 400,000 people went quiet. Like I said, I know I can’t expect anyone to fathom that number or understand what that could possibly feel like because I am having a hard time believing it happened myself.
Four. Hundred. Thousand.
That number will stick with me forever and so will that silence. To me, the silence spoke more than our shouts that followed soon thereafter. It started from the back of the march as a faint heavy prolonged breath and then it made its way to the front of the march where we were in a matter of seconds, like a flood that couldn’t be stopped. The dull vibration of shouts and the wave it sent to the front of the march made the hairs on the back of my neck stand out and chills took over my body. I have never felt so in tune and connected with so many people in a short amount of time. Our voices became one and just like that, we were heard.