Twenty-six years ago today, a lot of people ... the number was hotly and endlessly contested ... gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. to "be counted" for life. I was there at the Rally for Life 1990. Here's the C-SPAN archived footage, in which I strongly doubt that I appear. I was backstage, wearing an apron, a red STAFF t-shirt, a walkie-talkie and as close to 80's hair as I ever got. I was on the team that planned it. Tent rentals, mugs, pins, bumper stickers, meetings with Secret Service, Park Police, FBI background checks, arrangements for VIP pickup and transport, hotel accommodations, 1st aid stations, portapotties, the press pen, audio hook-ups, table rentals. Jacki, bless her dear Arkansas heart, and her massive Rally notebook. No sleep in more than 24 hours. "Water. Water. Water. Water." "Tell the truth! Tell the truth!" and a stonewalling press corps. All of this, before the internet, and before readily available bottled water. It boggles the mind.
It remains a hugely formative event in my life. Here are my two most iconic memories from that frenzied time: I got to drive around the grounds of the Washington Monument, from station to station, in a golf cart, after dark. I cannot express how cool this was.
And I was frisked by Dan Quayle's Secret Service agents. See, I discovered that you don't want to be running anywhere close to a Secret Service agent and their protectee (who was onstage talking at the time, I think), even when you were told to escort the audio guy to the press enclosure fast because he needed to set up the link-up to the White House for President George H. W. Bush's address to the crowd, which was scheduled just as soon as Dan Quayle finished his speech. You don't want to be running, or even walking fast and looking nervous about getting your guy to his place on time, because if you are, the big guys with shades and earpieces will be all around you and even in your pockets before you know what is happening. Actually, it wasn't bad; I was just startled and they must have decided I was 115 pounds of not-threatening pretty fast. And the audio guy, whoever he was, got through too.
It was being part of such a complex, massive event as this that taught me not to be afraid of big, complex challenges, and that if you are patient and organized enough they aren't quite so daunting. But no one is rushing to plan another Rally.
I remember that day! Maybe the day before, too. It was unseasonable warm, about 95 with at least 95 per cent humidity. We had come from Hyattsville, MD. Long bus rid to hop on the metro. We were walking the avenue, headed for your office. And somehow we were allowed entrance and invaded your executive space, sensing the preoccupation with the burden of final management of such a monumental event (pun intended!)
We had been warned by your dad that you would not have time to visit, so we were happy just to pop in, say "Hi," see our young executive niece in action, and be on our way.
We had suddenly become aware of the event. We were on vacation, and this was our scheduled day for the District. We were trying to cover as many of the sights as possible. We made it to the Capitol, listened to the snappy niformed guide, and went up to the House gallery. Just followed some other people to a seat. The guide was wearing a flowered dress and waving an umbrella. After a few minutes, she explained that we would go down to the lobby for a stop and a cold water fountain and a display of two early versions of the Bible, one by a hand scribe and one printed. That was a real treat for someone involved in writing and publishing, reflecting on all the current capabilities and challenges. The umbrella lady explained that we would not be able to go into the Library of Congress, since it was closed for renovation. Walking out, I mentioned my disappointment in that I had read about the decor and was looking forwar to seeing it. She said there was a way I could peek in, and she took me to a door and lifted the brown paper back to see in the window. No one else seemed all that interested in her information, and so we enjoyed talking to her and asked how to get to the National Arboretum. We knew it was nearby. She said, oh I'll point it out. We will go right by it when we get back on the bus. At this point, we realized we had attached ourselves to a tour group. I think we could have gotten on the bus and continued, but we didn't. We went on to the Smithsonian. Since we had stopped at other landmarks on the way, we used up our last bit of stamina and headed for the nearest metro stop and headed back to our family in MD.
Next day, we were driving to Alexandria and Mt. Vernon. We decided to drive through the District again to see the activity. Yes, we made it through most of the way before getting stalled for awhile. It was overwhelming ... the mass of portable toilets. We were not close enough to observe the program. but well aware of the enormous crowd.
It was interesting to read about your memories.
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