We had seen a lot on our family trip to New York. The Statue of Liberty, The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Central Park, Macy’s, The Empire State Building, Times Square, Broadway, and more tourist shops than you could shake an overpriced stick made in China at. Yes, we had done quite a bit in two days, but there were still things to do and see. My brother had an morning flight out of LaGuardia, so we said goodbye to him at the subway and got ready to march around the city in support of the climate.
Around 400,000 people marched through the streets of New York at the People’s Climate March on Sunday afternoon, and my mother and sister and I were three of them. Sort of. You see, when I originally made the plans for the three day 60th birthday celebration I had not heard about any climate march. This was just sort of a bonus. I feel very strongly about the challenges that we humans pose to our world and, by extension, ourselves, so marching for the climate seemed like a good thing to do. But because it was an add-on to the weekend, I didn’t do the research I needed to do in order to be an effective marcher.
The three of us started off marching down Broadway, meeting plenty of other marchers as we went. I wanted to show my mother where I had worked during my gigs at New York City Opera and The Met, so we followed the crowds down to Lincoln Center and I was very happy to see the place flooded with concerned citizens. It was exciting. You could feel the energy of the crowds, and, according to my non-research, the march was starting at Columbus Circle and then, since I had heard that the march was timed to coincide with the U.N. climate summit, on to the United Nations. We made it to Columbus Circle just fine, except my mother needed to find a restroom, and they all seemed to be across the street. And the street was barricaded and blocked by police officers.
“You need to go back to 61st and cross there!” the officer told us when we asked how to get over there. So we walked back two blocks and were about to make our way across the divide when we were stopped by more police officers.
“I don’t care what they told you, we just got orders to shut this down. Nobody can cross here!” the other officer shouted at a growing mob of unruly people who wanted to get to the other side. People started slipping through a crack in the barricade, and before I knew it my mother and sister and I were sneaking through an official blockade surrounded by swarming climate marchers in the middle of a march. “Hey!” the officer yelled at us, “Stop right now! Get back here! Don’t move! Do not cross!” So we went faster.
We were the last people that made it through. They grabbed the folks behind us and made them turn back. We got to the other side with no other delays and then turned against the tide of the march and attempted to wade our way back to the restrooms located in the Shops at Columbus Circle. By the time we got back out, the march had seemingly moved on. Luckily, we knew where they were going. Determined to catch up to them and march, we took the subway over to Rockefeller Center, stopping only briefly to admire the statue and to check out the Lego store, and then we marched ourselves over to the U.N. building.
It was strangely quiet at the United Nations, and there were no flags flying outside of the building and, more importantly, no marchers. We thought that, even with our Lego delay, that maybe we just beat everyone there. So we waited. We took some pictures. We sat and watched for the marchers who would be coming around the corner aaaaaaaany second…
Finally we asked a security guard why there were no flags flying. “They only fly when it’s in session,” he told us. “There’s no one there today. They’ll be there tomorrow. Come back tomorrow.” Well, we couldn’t go back the next day, as we were due to leave the city within the hour, so I decided to finally do that research that I ought to have done earlier. Ah, yes, there was the problem. They were not marching to the U.N. They were marching to the complete opposite side of the island, a few blocks west of Penn Station! So we jumped in a cab and headed in that direction. Yes, we took a cab to a climate march. Let that sink in.
Of course by this time we were quite hungry, so we stopped to get some food, which only increased our delay. By the time we got to the western side of the city it seemed that people were dispersing. People with climate signs walked towards us, their messages of hope now dragging behind them instead of held high. People laughed and chatted and seemed satisfied with their efforts, rather than chanting and getting worked up over things. We had missed it. One teensy little wrong turn (and a few pit stops) and the climate march had marched on without us. But hey, we marched at the beginning of it! And we had a great time, both with the marchers and by ourselves. And honestly, I think the event was successful, even with us only giving 10%. A difference was made, attention was gained, and now it’s up to everyone to keep the momentum going. And that’s even more important than marching.