Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12, 1982

June 12, 1982 became one of the most joyful and important days of my life. I hope to remember it always. Early in the morning I took a train from Long Island into Penn Station (Manhattan) and then met people at an assigned street. My friend Sharon was probably on that train with me.

I had attended a training about 2 weeks earlier to be a volunteer "peacekeeper" during a rally for an International Nuclear Freeze. The training included preparing for medical problems, pickpockets and people trying to incite violence. Not one of those things occurred on my watch.

I was given some fliers and assigned to meet the busloads of people arriving from Minnesota or North Dakota or ? Idaho?, some distant foreign part of the U.S. All told there were a million of us that day. Some people spent two days on buses. I did briefly encounter some of my relatives from Connecticut, including my grandmother (Bubbe)'s baby sister, Virginia, and two or three or maybe all four of her children. My cousin Michael was present, but I didn't see him until the following day.

I greeted the busloads of people and asked them to wait and face a certain direction. We waited for hours, sharing water and stories. This was in the days before cell phones. Before pagers, even. At one point I was given the word, that my block would begin marching within half an hour. Our meeting place was Central Park. I alerted the crowd. Bear in mind, that I was 18 and a week away from graduating high school. The vast majority of marchers were my parents' age and older. And even the college students were my senior. Shortly after I conveyed the message. I learned that we were, in fact, facing the wrong direction. It was embarrassing to ask the friendly assemblage to turn around 180 degrees. Everyone thought nothing of it. There was a sense of vulnerability and intimacy and warmth. I loved (and still love) every single person I met that day.

There were construction workers, police officers and others on duty. Many of them donned Nuclear Freeze buttons. Some wore the old peace sign (the one Britain's CND gave the world) or accepted flowers for their lapels. They accepted water and shared theirs as well.

During the day I saw several of my teachers including Tom Murphy and Dr. Maureen Joy. Sharon was the only classmate, I know for sure, participated. Probably Grace Paley was there. The Bread and Puppet Theatre was there. I don't know if Marsh Z. West was there or Harold Rogovin. Wouldn't surprise me one whit to learn they were.

I am one of thousands who made it to Central Park after the speeches and songs were over. No matter, we spent about three hours filling garbage bags with any remnants on the ground.

Then I walked with someone from Pennsylvania ( possibly named Tom or John or James?) all the way to Bubbe's apartment in Greenwich Village. Why I didn't take a bus or subway, I don't recall. I may have had a slight infatuation with James (or Tom or John) and we talked about life as we walked. New Yorkers all over had banners and flags hanging from their windows.

I love New York. I love the work that went into that day. I believe that we can (and must) live without nuclear weapons. This we owe to our children and grandparents. Peace is possible. Love is powerful.

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