I am finally home. I got home at 7:30 this morning, went to bed at 9, and woke up at 2:30 this afternoon.
You've probably heard all about our adventures on the news, but I'll start at the beginning.
Traveling to D.C.
The trip there was uneventful. It was long, but we expected that. We left the Cathedral around 1:30 on Wednesday and arrived at our hotel in Washington, D.C. around 4pm on Thursday. So far so good. We went to the Life is Very Good youth rally in Virginia and returned to the hotel to sleep in much-appreciated beds. At Mass that evening, our leaders told us of their decision to leave D.C. right after the March in an attempt to escape the storm. We were a little bummed but still excited for the March.
We had Mass in the hotel on Friday morning, went out to breakfast, took an impromptu walk to see some monuments, and then loaded the buses. We were one of the first groups to arrive at the Washington Monument for the opening of the March for Life. It was cold at the time but hadn't started snowing yet. The speakers were great and I was amazed at the number of people there, despite the many groups which had cancelled due to the oncoming weather. It started snowing around noon and continued all through the March. It was a wonderful experience to be standing up for our beliefs among so many other people who shared them. It gave us a certain connection to everyone there. Two people from Fox News stopped and interviewed two of my friends. It was cool that they covered the March, even if they talked mainly about the weather. We walked on, singing, cheering, and holding our signs so they blocked the snow from our faces. Smiles everywhere. We were all soaked when we loaded the buses and started back toward South Dakota.
And then came the part of our trip that made national--nay, international--news. We were driving along the Pennsylvania turnpike around 9pm that night when suddenly our bus rolled to a stop. Our leaders told us there was an accident about 10 miles ahead so traffic was slow, but we should be out soon.
That "soon" turned into 1-3 hours.
And 1-3 hours turned into 8.
The next morning we woke up and still had not moved. It was still snowing, and there was a lot of accumulation. The bus next to us had a good 6 inches of fresh snow on its roof. The leaders told us the National Guard had been called in, and it couldn't be long now.
We were still in the same place at noon, when we heard some of the other groups were getting together and having Mass. I remember that just before this, I had commented on how badly the day was going. I thought, "Seriously, they're going to have Mass in the snow?" But I went anyway and I'm so glad I did. It was one of the best Masses I've ever been to. The snow was coming down on us in large, wet flakes and we stood and shivered. The priests only had about 20 hosts so very few people were able to receive the Eucharist. (There were about 300 people at the Mass.) But we prayed and sang together like we had been stranded for no other reason. The entire Mass I was in awe...who gets the experience of going to Mass on the side of the road, standing in over a foot of snow, while more snow is being dumped on them by the minute? And yet there was so much joy. When Mass ended we all had light hearts and returned to our buses with renewed optimism.
Food was becoming scarce. We still had plenty of snacks, but everyone was longing for an actual meal. Some of our group walked to the Department of Transportation and eventually came back with pizza for us. It was cold and we had to share our pieces, but it tasted so good at the time!
Another few hours went by. It was dark out now. The leaders told us that it wouldn't be long now, there was only about half a mile of vehicles still to be unstuck. They told us that a Catholic church in Bedford, PA, St. Thomas the Apostle, was offering us dinner and lodging for the night. I have never been so happy at the thought of sleeping on a concrete floor. Finally we got unstuck--we clapped and cheered as the bus started moving. We headed back east to Bedford, where they gave us a delicious meal of pasta and fruit, we had Saturday anticipatory Mass, and got ready for bed. Another bus of UNL students arrived as we were going to bed.
The Road Home
The next morning we woke, packed up, and started on our way. The turnpike was still closed, so we took a longer route home. We were so happy to be moving, seeing blue sky, and heading home. We gave a huge thank you to our bus driver, Craig, who stuck it out with us for 22 hours. That day went by fast. We had a time of sharing our experiences with the rest of the group, we said the Chaplet and the Rosary.
We finally pulled into the Cathedral parking lot at almost 6am this morning. The news reporters had cameras set up and we got off the bus singing Holy God We Praise Thy Name. As we stepped out, the bishop gave each of us a hug and said "Welcome home."
One of our leaders had taken and posted a video of our roadside Mass. All throughout the rest of the trip he was updating us on the number of hits it had. The last I heard was 1.8 million. We had Skype interviews with several news agencies, and even BBC news asked him if they could use his video. Our story is all over the internet. If you google search "Pennsylvania turnpike Mass," you'll see what I mean.
We are convinced God planned it that way. The media never covers the March for Life, but with this story, the pro-life movement reached people it never would have. We have so many things to be thankful for. Our bishop called us martyrs, which means witnesses. Our priest compared our story to the Passion of Christ and the Bible story of Gideon. God has something amazing planned. We will bring an end to abortion once and for all.
(And here, if you want a 12-minute long documentary of our trip.)