Young people. The streets seethed with youth - huge bands of college kids shouted under school banners, and high schoolers gathered round signs with their school name plastered over it. But no, it wasn't a concert or Occupy Wall Street Rally-
This was the 10th Annual Walk For Life in San Francisco. And it was one enormous flood of 25 and under, myself included.
"Where else would I be?" shouted one high schooler, hailing from the LA Archdiocese. He paused just long enough to answer my lobbed question, "I'm pro-life!"
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Looming high above the shoulder-to-shoulder marchers crammed into Market Street, Students For Life's banner blared in block-white letters: WE ARE THE PROLIFE GENERATION. And that's what it looked like.
Though young and old have marched for years on both coasts, this weekend struck a new chord. Four years ago in D.C., I walked alongside young people as well. But that was all we did: walk. There was no sense of unity, of identity. We were tagging along for a day with a nice cause we could pitch a few hours at for a day. Even though we are a generation decimated by abortion, we were not a generation unified for life.
"This isn't it for me," said Cynthia, 17, who walked beside me half the 2 miles route, "I'm celebrating the community I've built to defend life at home. But it's really great to show the nation how valuable life is on this scale, to know we're not little isolated pockets, we're a huge network!"
Jammed between a nun no older than me, Cynthia, and a sober line of teenagers holding rounded signs depicting a fetal skeleton, the logo of Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, I could see what she meant. We were a huge network, and not marching against anything so much as we were marching for the lives of our peers, both that 1/3 already killed by abortion, and the children and mothers threatened by the reality of abortion still.
Father John, an Irish priest based at Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente, CA, who has attended many Walk in the past, told us, "I've never seen so many young people. In fact, I think it's all young people. Any grey hair out there?" he chucked, "It's just me!"
The only grey hairs my fellow walkers seemed to see were in the ugly, death-old Supreme Court Decision, Roe v. Wade. Halfway through, Survivors and the seminarians ahead of them began to chant, "Hey-hey, ho-ho! Roe. V. Wade has got to go!" "It's old, it's cold! Ho-ho, hey-hey, killing babies ain't okay!"
By the end of the Walk, San Francisco was echoing with the pro-life chants, joyful chatter, and soul-piercing Latin hymns raised beautifully by the seminarians I had passed near the beginning. Katie, a student who had travelled from Concordia University in Orange Country, finished the Walk right ahead of me and shouted out a last, "Hey-hey!" before turning to me, "Roe v. Wade is old. Death can't keep up with these young legs!"
This was the largest Walk For Life yet according to organizers - but it wasn't just big: it was loud, it was joyful, it was unified. It showed me my generation as I'd never seen them - the pro-life generation.
Young walkers just kept illustrating the youthful theme. I ran into Mary, a high schooler from Los Angeles, who had joined the Survivors in their ProLife Training Camp in 2013, and was now marching with their busload of youth in the Walk. Her shirt was bright red. In white text, it said: "I survived Roe v. Wade. But Roe v. Wade will not survive me. "
The Walk closed with a band of mariachis playing beside the pier as tens of thousands of young people - an enormous network - flooded through. I grabbed one last participant before I made the trek back to my car 2 miles away near the beginning of the event in Civic Plaza.
"Why did you walk?" I asked.
"I walk this Walk today because it's like I'm committing to every day," said the young man, one of the Survivors group, "I plan on doing something every day until abortion is abolished. Every day."
That is a youthful unity. That was the theme at the 10th Annual Walk For Life. That's the walk that spells out the end of abortion in the United States, and it looks like a huge tide turning towards transforming a culture steeped in death - abortion - into one on-fire to protect all life, preborn to natural death.
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