We did it! More than 2,000 people walked 16+ miles through the streets of our nation’s capital Saturday night to fight suicide.
What an incredible experience! It all began with an opening ceremony at George Washington University at 7pm. We had a stretching session and then listened to speakers who have also lost loved ones to suicide.
Melissa D’Arabian, mom of 4 girls and Food Network TV host spoke about her experience with her mother’s suicide. Singer Star Shell spoke of the loss of her sister and preformed a passionate song “My Star” dedicated to her loss.
It was during these impassioned speeches that my close knit group of fellow walkers (many on whom I had just met in real life for the first time this weekend) started to get really emotional. One by one we began to cry about our own mental health struggles and suicide loss. And the love and support was immediate. Being there was like receiving a giant hug from 2,000+ people. I knew no matter how dark the night might become (literally and figuratively) we were not alone.
Our journey was long but we never gave up. Not once did I see the vans circling around us and wish to give up and catch a ride. As we walked we spoke of the loved ones we’ve lost, our own mental health struggles and challenges of finding proper treatment and medication. At one point halfway through as we casually discussed these typically intense topics, I noted “how wonderful is it to be able to talk about medication and suicide with so many people who really get it.” There were never judgements. Just love and support and no stigma.
We honored our many loved ones lost for the beautiful lives they led and did not define them for their sad end. We talked of hope for the future. Hope that help and treatment is available and possible if we can just break down stigma and prejudice. If we can encourage others to seek help by our example.
The city of DC at night was beautiful. So many sites and national landmarks all lit up at night. We passed many people out on the town, and received lots of questions. “Why are you walking?” This was one of the most beautiful things about the walk. Being able to share that we were walking to prevent suicide.
One woman we ran into had lost a step son and another family friend. She hugged us and asked for information. I pulled off one of my AFSP.org bracelets and gave it to her.
By the “dinner” stop at 1:30 am we were tired and sore but after a meal were on our way again, no question we’d accomplish our task. We took it relatively slow as we didn’t want to finish too early and be tempted to miss the closing ceremony. So by 4:15am we made our way over 16 miles to the finish line.