Sudden Thunderstorm Zaps the Free Our People Marchers Power
(Laurel, Maryland) Less than twenty miles to go to the goal of Upper Senate Park, the Free Our People march is facing its greatest crisis the morning of September 16th. A sudden thundershower caught many of the charging units out in the rain.
“Well first, I am concerned about my safety,” said Pat King who has successfully and nightly recharged the march. “The generator is made for the weather, it is only the charges, power strips and cords that need to be inspected.”
A quick meeting was held Monday night to consider options. Representatives from each group fanned out to get a report on how much power existed in the wheelchairs currently. After about 20 minutes the meeting reformed with the estimate that only about 12 powerchairs could make it halfway, and add to that a handful of people who use manual wheelchairs and Adam, using crutches.
The spirited meeting in the dark explored some possibilities and the drawbacks to each one. There did not seem to be a solution to the problem, only ways to mitigate the difficulties. No clear decision was made, but several of the ADAPT marchers volunteered to work all night on the problem. The night of the 15th, the charging units were being taken to a nearby hotel to be inspected and dried.
Tomorrow morning the Maryland State Police will be ready to move out at 9:00 am.
The facts of the situation hit some of the marchers very hard. ADAPT had weathered storms in the past and recharged in the rain before, many people wondered why this time was so fatal. Following the shock of realizing what having no power will mean, the marchers began to pull together to solve problems. It is still unclear how ADAPT will confront this crisis, but there is a great effort in the works late into the night.
Many of the marchers were expecting rain today. A light fog hung in the air before we moved out. The gray sky overhead brought no rain, and cleared before we stopped for lunch in Laurel Maryland. Generally, the overcast skies made the day a little cooler than most.
“I cannot believe you surmounted the biggest obstacle in Maryland,” said Rick as he watched the Free Our People March go by him, “You got some bureaucrat to say yes to this.”
Although the march is passing through small towns in Maryland, it is obvious that the Capitol is near. The steady roar of the Interstate replaces the sound of the generator at night. We are marching on Route 1, but the Interstate is close enough to hear and trains pass at regular intervals between Washington and East coast cities all night.
The camp was relaxed and in good spirits before the thunderstorm. The unique layout of this camp makes the tent city look huge. All of the tents are set up along the left side of an entrance road to a small industrial park. The nearby building is either unfinished or not yet rented.
The line of tents stretches out of sight on the hill and curve of the road. The portable toilets are located at both ends of the line. Maryland Route 1 and the generator sit at one end and a driving range is at the other. The campsite road nearly connects with Route 1, but it is not paved for the final 20 yards. Large concrete barriers have been placed at the end of the road to prevent a vehicle using that end of the road.
Steve Gold engineered a shortcut that allowed people using wheelchairs to pass between the concrete barricades. His shortcut saves over a half a mile.
At dinnertime an ominous dark line of clouds approached from the direction of Washington DC. Most people were in a long line for pizza when it became clear that something was coming. The volunteers passing out the pizza, grabbed boxes and carried them up the line to hurry the process along.
Then came the thunder, the lighting and the rain.
- Tim Wheat