York City to Washington in sweltering, blazing sun in the nation's capitol.
But the extreme heat was not enough to curb our actions on July 3 and July
4. Fortified with gallons of water, sun hats and sun screen, we elders
walked and walked and stood for hours in the 90-plus humid heat without a
single case of heat exhaustion or heat stroke occurring.
Our Washington sojourn began on July 3 in Dupont Circle, where we were met
by Cindy Sheehan, Daniel Ellsberg, Dick Gregory, Medea Benjamin, and others,
all of whom escorted us grandmas on foot to the main event -- a rally at the
beautiful Gandhi Statue. Vinie Burrows, our famed Broadway
actress/playwright granny, gave a powerful speech at both locations, which
was widely quoted in press and media all over the world. Other eloquent
speeches were made by Ms. Sheehan, Mr. Ellsberg, and Mr. Gregory, and a
marvelous orator from San Franisco, Rev. Yearwood, who mesmerized the
We encountered a disturbing counter-protest group -- about a dozen people
stood near us with a huge banner inscribed, "CINDY SHEEHAN'S STARVED FOR
ATTENTION," and other small degrading signs. It was extremely agitating to
see these people berating a woman who lost her son and has worked so
tirelessly for peace. I had to contain myself from going over and giving
them a good tongue-lashing. But what would have been the point? These people
are cretins probably nurtured on a spiritual diet of Rev. Falwell and Joe
Our entire peace entourage then walked through Northwest Washington to
Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, where the grannies
chanted and sang and displayed their banners and signs right at the gate of
the President's residence (so-called on the rare occasions when he actually
resides there). It was upsetting to again see the same small group of
counter-protesters with their disgusting signs standing near our anti-war
group babbling their mindless garbage.
begin at midnight, and more speeches and songs filled the air. Two of our
grannies undertook the fast in sympathy with Code Pink.
The next day, Independence Day! What to do as a final expression of our
mission to awaken the public to the need for direct action to end the war in
Iraq? Well, who besides Bush is principally responsible for the whole mess
in Iraq? You guessed it -- Dick Cheney. So, early in the morning, we hied
off to the Naval Observatory residence of Mr. Cheney (anther non-resider),
where we again chanted and sang and generally vented our spleen at this most
horrendous of men. We were amazed at the number of cars which honked in
support of us as they drove past outside the Vice President's token house.
They were not, for the most part, people from deprived homes, we speculated,
given the kinds of cars they were driving and the very tony neighborhood
they were driving in. Is this a sign of further slippage of support for the
Bushies, we fervently hope?
After more vigils and walks along the National Mall, we piled wearily into
our bus for the ride back to New York. I was sitting near the front and at
one point looked toward the rear and saw approximately ten people sound
quite difficult and enervating, especially given the extreme heat, it was a
worthwhile and interesting endeavor. And, there was universal agreement that
the people who housed and fed us every step of the way were magnificent in
their commitment to peace and the hospitality they showed all of us.
I'd like to quote brief comments by a few of the grannies about their
impressions of our journey:
Our oldest granny, Marie Runyon, 91, legally blind and somewhat deaf but who
kept up with us every step of the way, says: "It was a fantastic trip
meeting wondrous people all along the way. I would not have missed it for
From Molly Klopot, our second oldest granny at 87: "It was very exhilarating
and exciting and represented what I hope will become the beginning of a
Here's a comment from Nydia Leaf: "I know we made connections on this trek
that will grow in strength and numbers and that's what it was all about. We
grannies keenly recognize the need to combine with others and resist those
forces working against the good of this country, which is at a crossroads,
and against the future of our planet, which is at an even more critical
One of our "baby grandmas," Ann Shirazi (only 61), has this to say: "The
Granny trek demonstrated that a small group of ordinary people coming
together with a common goal can make the extraordinary happen. The
unstinting support and generosity of groups committed to challenging this
ruthless regime gave us the opportunity to touch the lives of those who have
felt helpless and shut off because of of this country's policies."
From Corinne Willinger, possessing one of the four recent hip replacements
among us: "Our Trek was wonderful, exhausting, educational, profound,
adventurous. I was able to experience an active, thoughtful, determined,
powerful potpourri of women of various ages, opinions and temperaments, but
all with the same determination to get the message to the world that peace
is not only possible, but imperative."
Our documentary film producers, Bob Sann and Fran Sears, have a few words to
say, also. They doggedly followed us every step of the way with their crew
of 10 and hope to produce a miracle and have the film ready by mid-September
for release. In their words, "The real gift of the Grannies is the living,
breathing lesson they give every single day about what it is to be a
participating member in our democracy. With these remarkable women on the
road, we watched in awe as they tirelessly - and with humor and grace - kept
spreading the word that 'Democracy is not a spectator sport.' As filmmakers,
our task is to take their message across the United States. Like their tee
shirts proclaim, 'WE WILL NOT BE SILENT,' and neither will we."
And, what does your reporter have to say? Well, I griped a lot and felt
tired a lot and certainly perspired a lot, but, looking back, I am certain
that we accomplished a lot -- encouraged people to exercise their
Constitutional right to dissent and demand an end to the occupation. I also
had the rare experience of seeing 18 strong-minded, opinionated older women
closeted together for 11 days survive arguments, clashes, even occasional
angry words, and wind up in the end loving each other greatly.
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