Photo by Ed Gallucci copyright 1970
On May 10, 1970, Jimmy attended his first protest march in Washington D.C., to protest the Viet Nam War, the Kent State shootings and the invasion of Cambodia. As typical of his life, as a one year old, he was involved in the unusual. We were students at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, VA, and wanted to join our friends and fellow students on this historic day. So, we bundled Jimmy, the orange umbrella stroller (a recently invented god-send to harried parents unable to take a full-size stroller on a walk), hats, suntan lotion and water, into our 65’ white Hatchback Barracuda, and drove 2 ½ hours to Washington DC.
We parked close to the Washington Monument and started strolling towards the Mall, where the marchers and the speakers would converge. There were thousands of young people around us, some chanting, some singing, but all with the common purpose of witnessing something meaningful to our generation. We felt safe and protected, even though we were surrounded by a very large crowd. Everything was peaceful and calm for the first hour, but as we walked closer to the Mall and the monuments that comprise that historic area, we began to hear rumblings and shouting coming from the people in front of us.
We began to feel the tension of the moment, as the crowds began to run in many directions. What had been an orderly slow march suddenly felt out of control and dangerous. We stopped walking and were going to turn around to go back to our car, when a group of young men came running towards us. One screamed, “they are tear-gassing our people in the front!” Another of the guys yelled, “let’s get you and your baby out of here!” Four strong arms grabbed the stroller, with Jimmy in it, and ran like crazy, back towards the Monument and the safety of our car!”
Of course, Jimmy thought it was some sort of wonderful game, as he bounced above the road, with us holding his hands and blocking the sides of the stroller. He laughed and giggled and kicked his feet in the air as he stroller surfed above the street and away from the potential violence of the day.
When we were far enough from the crowd and the shouts of “be careful, stay safe and stay strong,” the four guys who had grabbed the stroller put Jimmy down and we thanked them for their kindness and caring. As they turned to head back to help others, we realized we hadn’t even found out their names. Jimmy was laughing and waving “bye-bye,” as we stopped to catch our breath and consider what just happened to us.
We had experienced human kindness in the face of danger, with no thought for their own safety. I couldn’t tell you what color their skin was, what they looked like or what they said as they ran along with us.
They didn’t have to help us, but they did. And we will be forever grateful.
As the years went by, we made sure to tell Jimmy and Jeff about that day, and what it meant to us. We had come to experience something larger than our own student middle class world, and be a part of history. Our personal experience transcended the reason we had wanted to come. It was and still is a powerful reminder that protests are comprised of individuals, each deserving the promise of safety and human rights. In the end, the part of history we experienced defined how we looked at future protests.
Which brings us to today. The events of the past weeks have left us all reeling, trying to find the words to say. I can only share the words of those four guys on May 10, 1970 who made sure Jimmy and his young parents would be OK. Be Careful! Be Safe! Stay Strong! Today, I will add my own: Be Kind!
With love and the hope that we will see you in the water in Manhattan Beach, Camp Pendleton and Coronado as soon as we are able to safely return to our Ocean Therapy Sessions.