Young people from around the U.S. and its territories travelled hundreds, even thousands of miles, through winter weather conditions to attend the March for Life and speak out in defense of the unborn.
Timothy Olive, 21, from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, traveled over 1,500 miles by plane to attend the March, along with more than 70 people from the territory's diocese.
"This is a special event for us … because we're a U.S. territory, the laws of abortion apply down there. There's lots of abortions. We have to step up to the plate and do what we have to do,” Olive told CNA during Wednesday's event.
The day before the March for Life, a snowstorm travelled through the northeastern United States, leaving more than six inches of snow in Washington, D.C. Temperatures in the nation's capital dipped into the single digits the morning of Jan. 22, rising only to the low teens for the March itself.
While the unexpected weather disrupted some travel plans – particularly from pro-life supporters coming from east coast cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, the foul weather did not keep the hundreds of thousands of participants in the March for Life indoors.
While no official attendance count has yet been released, in the past several years between 350,000 and 650,000 people have participated in the March for Life.
Pre-march events such as the National Prayer Vigil for Life and the Youth Rally and Mass for Life reported similar attendance to previous years' participation.
Olive reflected that the March for Life is "a spiritual awakening for our youth" traveling from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"A third of our generation since 1973 is missing. It's very sad for all of us: 56 million citizens gone."
He said he would pray for those who support abortion "so that they know what's going on" and know "that's not right."
Sofia Quiñones, 17, from St. Augustine, Fla., who experienced her first snowfall the day before the March for Life, said that while the weather was cold, it was exciting and "feels like a movie."
“The whole meaning of this gathering for this purpose is so meaningful for me,” she said, because "it's a life."
"A person's a person, no matter how small."
Shaya Oliver, also 17 and from St. Augustine, explained that the group travelled “about 12 hours" to attend the March for Life.
She said participating in the March was exciting because "I've never been a part of a group that big all fighting for the same thing," and she was eager to give witness to other teenagers about “the negative things” that happen to women and society after abortion.
Though Monica Rivera, 19, only had to travel from her dormitory at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the cold weather and travel concerns still affected the Miami, Fla. native.
"This is the coldest I've ever been," she said, adding that her plans with her brother, a seminarian traveling with the Archdiocese of Miami, had also been changed.
"Their flight was canceled because of the snow," she explained. "They're flying straight in and marching."
Rivera stressed that while she was marching to "defend those who don't have a voice," it is important that "while we do this, we pray."
"That's the most important part."
Not all travelers to the March for Life found the weather uncomfortable. Arshad Williams, 17, from Chicago, said that the winter storm felt warm compared to the those he had been experiencing at home.
Williams did not travel for the relatively warmer weather, however, but to "support the cause" and reach out to other young people.
"A lot of abortions are happening among young people," he said, emphasizing that it's important for him to tell other youth "what you know to dissuade them from abortion."
Megan Fisher, also of Chicago, said she wanted to make the 700-mile bus ride for some of those who are closest to her.
"I wanted to come to save the babies, especially all the disabled ones."
"My younger brother is multiply handicapped, and most people abort them," Fisher explained.
Instead of being a burden or someone to discard, she continued, people with disabilities should be loved. "He's such a blessing."
Andrew Chorich, 15, a freshman at Mt. Carmel High School in Highland, Ind., said he came to his first March for Life in order to "experience what it is like" and to "support the Catholic Church" and its defense of life.
“Every day there's three thousand kids being murdered.”
“There's no justice in such a situation."