Today was the day I would head to DC for #MarchForOurLives.
I woke up at 2:30 am and got dressed. My brother picked me up at 3:30 am, and we headed to Fort Lauderdale International Airport. I arrived a little after 4 am. I took a quick pic with the best chauffeur around, and went inside the Delta terminal. There was already a huge line of passengers waiting to go through security, but they were told to wait until all of the MSD passengers went through. I made it through and headed to the gate. I got some Starbucks (because I’m that person) and started talking to some teacher friends. I saw dozens of my students and some I just knew. We all shared which of the three flights we were on.
As a side note, three flights were donated by Delta. MSD passengers took up every seat on each of the three planes. The planes were leaving FLL at 4:40, 5:10 and 5:40 am.
While at the gate, I was asked if I wanted to get on the second flight, since I was scheduled to be on the third. Since I was a single traveler, I said yes. Once I got on the plane, I noticed a seat in first class. No one was sitting there… so I did. I plugged in, watched some tv and took a little cat nap. They had wonderful snacks provided to all of us on the flight.
Once we arrived in DC, we exited the plane directly on the tarmac and headed to one of the charter buses waiting for us. We had a police escort guiding us out of the airport, and we made our way to the National Mall.
When the buses stopped, we exited and went to get some of the food they provided for us. Each person also got a green wristband, allowing us access into the event. We were then ushered toward the “friends and family” area, which was right in front of the stage.
I received a call from the MSNBC producer I was supposed to meet for the live-shot I was doing while at the march. I found Kristen, a volunteer at the event, who led me to the interview destination. She was so sweet and super helpful.
I made it to the MSNBC area in 6th/E Street and sat to have me makeup made tv-ready (even though I already had on makeup). Before going on-air, I made sure to take a pic with Ali and Alex; I had met Ali in the days immediately following the event at my school, and he remembered me fondly. It was a great interview. https://www.msnbc.com/velshi-ruhle/watch/parkland-teacher-i-went-to-college-to-be-a-teacher-not-to-be-a-police-officer-1194191427644
After the interview, I made it back to the MSD area. I saw some of my yearbook staff, as well as teacher friends. I found a good spot to stay for the event, which ended up not being a march, as much as a rally/concert. From where I was standing, I saw Steven Spielberg & George Clooney in the VIP section, which was on the other side of the divider. We settled in for the event, which opened up with Andra Day singing “Rise Up.” Other performers were Common, Demi Lovato, Lin-Manuel Miranda with Ben Platt, Miley Cyrus, Arianna Grande and Jennifer Hudson. The speakers were students from my school, including Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin, Delaney Tarr and Ryan Deitsch; there were also speeches from others touched by gun violence, including Naomi Wadler, Yolanda Renee King (MLK’s granddaughter), Alex King & D’Angelo McDade and Edna Chavez. It was important to hear the voices from Parkland, but also those from Chicago, DC/Baltimore and LA.
The event lasted about three hours. When it was over, we went back to the bus and headed back to the airport. I was able to get on the first flight out of the three, and made it home around 9p. Before I finally collapsed from exhaustion, I tweeted the following message and the picture below: “Words cannot describe what I experienced & felt today. The pride for my school & students, coupled with the sadness that we even had to have this march in the first place. I will write more in a very lengthy, reflective blog post. Now, I’m off to bed… #MarchForOurLives”
And there you have it. I took part in something historic. I made noise and made history. I am a proud Eagle, today and always.