Yesterday, I described the reasons I decided to travel to Washington to take part in the event. Today, I'd like to tell you about my first impressions of the 250 participants in Moms Take the Hill on March 13, 2013. I began to meet them on Tuesday March 12th at the Crown Plaza in Arlington VA. I had worked Tuesday morning & then drove from CT to Arlington, VA. I managed to miss most of the rush hour traffic & arrived a little after 6:30 PM. There was just enough time to find my room & have a quick dinner before a 7:30 PM meeting at the hotel. I was physically exhausted, but wanted to meet the people I would be spending time with on Capitol Hill.
At the meeting, I met some of the organizers & about 70 of the 250 participants from 30 states from around the United States who had made the trip to speak their minds on gun control. Most of the participants had never been politically active before. Like me, it was their 1st trip to DC, to take part in the process of "lobbying" for a cause that moved them to action. There were lots of questions & concerns.
There was a woman whose colleague & best friend had been killed in Virginia while teaching on a college campus a few years ago. There was a Skidmore College freshman who originally just planned to accompany her mother to learn about political activism. Her mother, who lives in Milford CT, got involved after Sandy Hook. Just a week before the trip to DC, after being in a lock down at Skidmore, her fears & concerns about her fellow students' reactions to the lock down gave the young accidental activist personal reasons to get involved. There was a grandmother who came with her granddaughter from Michigan. There were gun owners from Texas & Colorado, who believe in the right to bear arms, but want stricter controls, mandatory background checks & stricter gun trafficking policies. Since I was from CT & spent time with a participant from Newtown, I began to hear the gasps & see the emotional reactions everyone had when they heard someone was from Newtown. There were fathers & sons who wanted their voices to be heard. The participants were from varied socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, races & a variety of professions. From housewives, to retirees, to physicians, publicists, & nurses, they all had the common goal to make a difference & leave the world safer for their children & grandchildren.
|My name tag|
The organizers were well prepared & helped the participants by explaining what to expect. Not only did they bring orientation packets with agendas, name tags, maps & information, but they also had lists, which they continued to up date, of all the 90 meetings they had scheduled for the participants with their elected officials. Each small group would have a leader who knew their way around the capitol to help them get from building to building in a timely fashion. The most touching presenter was a mother whose daughter had been wounded in the Virginia Tech massacre. Her daughter survived, but she & her family's lives were changed forever. Since Virginia Tech she has been fighting the battle for gun control. She encouraged all the participants to simply tell their stories & why they want changes in gun control policies. The organizers reported that the recent events in DC are encouraging & that our presence is crucial to the outcome. They gave out stickers with the words: "Background Checks Save Lives" and buttons that said: "Protect Children Not Guns." My button would lead to my meeting Representative Nancy Pelosi, but that story will have to wait till tomorrow.
There was agreement that comprehensive background checks, restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, limitations on high powered munitions, strict gun trafficking laws & increased safety measures in schools are needed. Although I believe that increased budgets for mental health & educational programs to teach tolerance, the leaders reported that the gun control bills being proposed are the first most important steps that leaders believe are attainable now. The others will come later. People asked questions about how to deal with leaders who are opposed to gun control laws or who are being influenced by the gun lobby. They encouraged us to be armed with our stories, our consciences, our resolve to protect children & to let them know that the "Sandy Hook effect" will not disappear as the gun lobby hopes it will.
At about 9 PM the official meeting ended, but many people continued to talk. Tired, but envigorated by the powerful group I had begun to get to know, I went to try to get some sleep so that I would be ready to board the buses to Capitol Hill by 6:45 AM on Wednesday. Come back tomorrow to hear about my meetings with senators & congressmen on the hill.