ON A SPRING day in 1971, my husband, my best friend and I set off from Boston, Massachusetts bound for Washington, DC. We walked down the street together, we stood together near the entrance to the Mass Pike, and in unison we thrust our thumbs out, looking for the ride that would take us far on this first leg of our journey. We got the ride, and then another, and then another. And with each ride we got closer to Washington. But we never got there, and by the end of the day my friend Carol was dead and my husband John, the ferociously smart man I’d married much too young, was in a coma from which he would never awake. I lay down the hall from him, tethered to tubes and machines, breathing hard to keep myself alive.
We had been on our way to Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. We had no doubts on that day we set out. This was the demonstration that would end the war and we would – we must – voice our outrage. While it hurt us to know about the horrors, we lived at a safe distance from danger. Just two years before, John and I were planning to go to Canada so that he could escape the draft. Then, just weeks before we were to leave, he fell and damaged his knee and his draft status was changed to 4F, an immediate exemption from service. Carol and I had been training at a local centre to be draft counsellors, to assist young men who were trying to avoid the war. We wanted to do something meaningful – something to show that we were not just tie-dye hippies, flashing peace signs to passers by.
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