I was planning to write a moving and uplifting essay about the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. How, under stormy skies with no place to sit, the old and young, including wheelchairs and strollers, braved the intermittent downpours and their own fatigue to lend their support to the cause of science. How, systematically silenced by the callow Trump Administration, artists, school children, and Kansans found their voice. How, in the midst of an ocean of support for evidence-based, peer-reviewed science, I found where I belonged.
And all that did happen. But, as it turned out, the more important event for me took place the day before.
March For Science: EPA Scientist and Me
On Friday, the day before the march, my son (let’s call him Vincent) and I arrived in Washington, D.C. via an overnight flight. The morning was a jumble of the Navy Yard (my request to be photographed in front of ‘NCIS) and World War II Memorial (Vincent’s request – my pre-teen historian who knows everything about World War II). We walked through the blistering day-before-the-storm humidity, got dehydrated, battled the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, and gradually found ourselves in front of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Of all the agencies that the Trump Administration is destroying, it is the cold and systematic dismantling of the EPA that shatters my soul. Vincent took my picture in front of the EPA sign. I took his picture.
A mad scientist of the EPA (you know the kind – white hair, tall, lanky, a bit stooped over, unkempt jacket) came out of the door and scrutinized our clothing. We were wearing the official ‘March for Science’ t-shirts. He gave me an unmistakably grateful smile and a thumbs up. I said, ‘we’re going tomorrow’. He came closer and patted me on the back. And left.
I wanted to run after him, find out his name, take his picture. But no, not in this day and age. Not now. I could not out him, even if no one ever reads my essay. How tragic that we have to protect our scientists’ names.
March For Science: Washington Inspires
The rest of the day passed by in a blur. We visited a museum, bought souvenirs, and fielded questions from multiple tourists (all of whom were going to the march) about our t-shirts. I found that my capital city, the one I knew from my middle school visit, from business trips, from friends’ weddings, that Washington, D.C. was still there. In spite of the current chaos, the dignity and majesty that is our nation’s capital is still there. I was still proud to show it off to my son.
But that moment at the EPA… In twenty seconds, an EPA scientist gave his seal of approval and passed on the baton. Now it is up to me.