By Bill Buell
Michelle Ostrelich has never shied away from getting involved before, but Saturday’s trip to the Women’s March on New York was a first.
“It was my first time ever being involved in a march or protest, and I really didn’t know what to think,” said Ostrelich, a Niskayuna resident who is a past president of the Jewish Community Center and has served on the Niskayuna school board. “I didn’t know what to expect, and it was well beyond anything I had hoped for. There was a real sense of support, of hope and unity. It was a real positive experience.”
Ostrelich and Holly Loth, members of the Congregation Gates of Heaven Temple in Niskayuna, organized a bus trip of 55 women, men and children to the Women’s March In New York City. They left from the Congregation Gates of Heaven at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning, reached New York City around 11 a.m. and headed back to Schenectady at 5:30 p.m.
“We were going back and forth trying to decide if we should go to New York or Washington back in December, and it seemed like the New York event was a little more organized,” said Loth, who lives in the Central Park area of Schenectady. “D.C. didn’t have permits yet, and if we went to New York it meant we didn’t have to leave at 1 in the morning. So we chose New York.”
The larger-than-expected turnout did create some issues for marchers.
“Because of the crowd of people, our bus couldn’t take us to where we were supposed to be dropped off,” said Loth. “We got off at Schomburg Plaza which was sort of a staging area, and it’s really not that big of a space. We were on 47th Street between First and Second and it was packed with people. And then what happened was that there were these three other streets feeding into the river of people, and there were so many people it took us three hours to go from First Avenue to Second Avenue.”
The group of 55 that came down with Loth and Ostrelich weren’t able to stay together because of the crowd.
“We were hoping to march as a group, but on account of the crowd we got split up into groups of five and 10,” said Loth. “Some people actually bailed for lunch and then rejoined the march ahead of where we were. But it truly was an amazing experience. People were saying how it wasn’t a march. They were calling it a shuffle, or a crawl. But people were really buoyed by the presence of everyone there and the enthusiasm we all had.”
There was no violence or destruction in New York for the match, and any anger displayed was directed at the country’s new president.
“There was nothing, except maybe a little anger at times, but everyone was so cheerful it was amazing,” said Loth. “I didn’t even see any counter-protestors. I expected to see some people standing on a corner somewhere shouting at us, ‘boo you,’ but there was none of that. All I saw was support.”
Loth’s section of the crowd and most of the 55 people on her bus didn’t actually make it to their destination, outside Trump Plaza. But that didn’t seem to matter much to her or anyone else.
“We had thought we had given ourselves extra time to get back to the bus,” she said. “We were supposed to meet back there at 5:30 and at 4:45 we hadn’t reached Fifth Avenue yet. So we decided to head back. But it didn’t matter. I get choked up talking about it. There was such a sense of solidarity, and so much humor and hope in the air. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so happy my 8-year-old son was there with me.”
Ostrelich was also overjoyed that she decided to participate.
“What I found incredible was that despite Manhattan being packed and having to walk very slowly, everybody was so peaceful,” she said. “Everyone was so friendly. It was a very positive experience I won’t ever forget.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or email@example.com.
By Bill Buell