Occupy The Highway, Nov. 2011, NJ, New Jersey
By Merielle S. | Posted Sunday February 5, 2012
I was raised in a middle class town on the New Jersey coastline in the 1990’s along with my two sisters and three brothers. My mother worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed while we were growing up, all on one income. I have seen, first hand, the slow decent this country has taken for the worse as to where I work full time, yet live paycheck to paycheck. I work as a Certified Nurse’s Aide in a long term care facility, a job that was promising five years ago is now uncertain thanks to our politicians cutting funds to Medicaid and Medicare.
I decided to fight back and have my voice heard by joining a long distance march, sponsored by Occupy Wall Street, called Occupy The Highway. The plan was to march an average of twenty miles a day from New York City to Washington D.C. in order to reach the Congressional Super Committee’s decision on November 23, 2011 to either let the Bush era tax cuts on the super wealthy expire or extend. I showed up at my job with a list of the cities and dates, explaining to my boss that I needed two weeks off. She was quite impressed that I cared so much about this issue and sent me off with well wishes.
The people I met, the friends I made marching beside other Americans who were as outraged and worried for our nation as I, are people whom I will never forget. Along with the stories I heard from my fellow marchers are the stories of every day Americans I was blessed to hear. There was Tia, the homeless woman I bought a meal for during our stop in Philly who was three months pregnant. Also, there was Jim, a man down on his luck who was living under a bridge outside of Baltimore with a group of homeless about five strong. Throw in the countless “ghettos” we marched through, with their boarded up homes and liquor stores and you have the America I know; this is the America they deny exists.
When we pushed into Delaware, on the chilly evening of November 15, 2011, we were greeted by a lady on a street corner. Although I cannot remember her name, I remember her face and her story. As she donated $40 she spoke to us of the neighborhood before us, where she lived. Her voice was somber as she explained their hardships during this recession, of how only the wives were able to find work as the men sat at home, unable to contribute to the household. This left all of the financial strain on her and all of her female neighbors. Even though they were facing hard times she thought it was worth it to donate to our march and thanked us for what we were doing.
The amount of support we were given by Americans led us to believe America is ready for a new America where Americans come first. Countless times we were given car honks of approval, or had supporters bring us coffee, hot chocolate, water, cold cut sandwiches, anything they could conjure. It really opened our eyes and our hearts to this part of the population, invisible to all of those on Wall Street and their comrades in Washington D.C. Walking through some of the same routes the Revolutionary War soldiers marched and seeing how they went from cobbles of glory and pride to slabs of decay was more than I could handle. I fell in love with the idea of what America was meant to be, and broke my heart realizing her liberty had been taken hostage by the greed of some.
The Super Committee wasn’t even in town by the time we reached our destination, they all fled to be with their families on Thanksgiving, but not before announcing they did not reach a decision. The local media cared more about our pilgrimage than anyone on Capitol Hill, but we were expecting that. I returned home only to hear that my state’s Governor, Chris Christie, is planning on privatizing New Jersey’s long term care programs. As money gets squeezed out of my field of work, I wonder how soon it will take in this “30 day economy” before I lose what little I have.