We walk from north of the Utah State Capitol. The first half of this walk is uphill, then it flattens out, then stairs lead up to the capitol building. We walk only as quickly as Z wants to go. She runs her right hand along fences and bushes, while her left hand hold a rock she picked up from a person’s yard. I encourage her up the hill; I tell stories, while Z chatters and sings. She smiles the whole way. It’s slightly breezy, and the sun begins to break the clouds.
We cross the street just west of the capitol, and we wind our way up to other demonstrators, counting our way up the stairs. We find friends. We find a spot on the grass where we’ll spend the next hour. The ASL interpreter ends up right above us.
The yard of the capitol is relatively empty, and I realize the marchers haven’t arrived yet.
Here they come.
A seemingly endless wave of student, parents, and other protestors make their way up the main stairs. They have a variety of chants, including:
“Save our students!”
“USA, not NRA!”
It’s electrifying. I chant with them. Z jumps up and down. The energy and passion cause tears to well in my eyes.
The current of students slows and then stops.
The crowd starts singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Students speak. We cheer and clap.
I look at the people around me.
We have a picket sign. I put it down to keep a hold of Z. One side says, “Gun advocates – do you purposely misunderstand this issues? Gun control is not a gun ban. Protect our children, not guns.”
The other side of the sign, which is facing up, says, “Am I next?” Z stands next to it.
With my hands on Z’s shoulder, I continue looking around at all the young people. When my eyes come back to Z, a lady in a red sweatshirt is standing in front of us. She looks at Z, and then she looks at me.
She says, referring to Z, “I was going to thank her for coming. I’m a teacher, and this issue is important to me. I’m grateful that you’re standing up to protect our children.” With tears in my eyes and the thought of Z asking, “Am I next?” I thank her. She hugs me from the side and says she’s sorry I have to live with this fear.
Then she walks away.
Z then sits on the grass and plays with rocks. She reads the letters on our sign. She wants to get up and spin. Friends find us, and we chat for a little bit. We cheer together and admire all the signs. Z plays with a friend’s hat and the signs she brought.
The protest ends. Clouds begin to cover the sky again.
Z and I walk back to the car, mostly downhill this time. Generous friends who live close by let us use their bathroom.
We drive home.
We can change it all: The crisis. The violence. The lobbying.
We will vote them out.