Continued excerpts of Shepherd’s broadcast description of being there:
We came into the city. One of the moments I will never in my life forget—I just won’t, I know it. Coming into the outskirts of Washington in this bus. Tired, boy, have you ever ridden six hours on a cross-town bus! Wow! And that seat was like a rock. And we were sweating and the sun was beating down and we arrived and there was a cop waiting for us in a white helmet. The police were to take groups of six busses, with a police escort, to the proper place where they were to go—each group of six was assigned a place. It was fantastic. All the busses were lined up for blocks. And what was intriguing was to find, slowly, everybody in the bus was beginning to thaw. Up to that point they expected officialdom and all that—and they found that officialdom was as much on their side as anybody.
We took off and rode along one of the main streets through the slums and there were hundreds of people on the steps. Little old ladies, grandmas, skinny kids, tough-looking guys, nuns, everywhere we went they were sitting on the porches waving. Not the kind of waving that says, “Go give ‘em hell,” just with a strange, happy, “We’re glad you’re here, how are you.” Just unbelievable feeling all the way through, all out there on the steps and streets waving and everybody in the bus was waving.
We finally arrived at the place where we parked on a side street, and this was a strange moment. We’d stopped a couple of times at gas stations on the way down but when we got out, everybody was bent over stiff-legged and bent over sideways. The back of your neck was hurting and immediately about forty-five people had to go to the john. We walked around and somebody said, “Let’s go to that building over there.” It was a big, gray, official-looking building, and people started to go down the driveway that had big trucks and guys working there who were not connected with the demonstration.
The instant the people started to go down the drive the workers there escorted everybody in where they could get water: “You want any coffee?” They’re cheering you on. “Yeah, come on!” We went in and everybody got water. It was a very odd experience to have people really concerned about you! They really were worried: “Gee, do you want to sit down? How about some coffee.” They were just guys working at that building. “Hey, have some coffee.”
We walked out onto the street and went toward the area where we were going to assemble and march. But it was not at all the way I would have imagined a demonstration or any other kind of event would be run. You’re walking on the street and it was like you were suddenly with a million old friends. It was like a family reunion! A strange feeling, and there wasn’t one moment that was phony about it. I had peoples step on my foot and say, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, excuse me.” A man standing in front of me when there was a big thing going on said, “Can you see now?”
And one of the great moments was when we walked through a grove of trees and started walking along the street where I met a lot of old friends. And what really intrigued me was the number of people who didn’t come. I will not mention names. But I sure was amazed by the absence of many people who I’d heard do a lot of talking prior to this moment. They just weren’t there. And a lot of people who never said a word were there.
More to come