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Retired high school teacher Rebecca Beal (right) of Glen Carbon, with Betsy Parks, of Edwardsville, made the trip to Washington “to remind our politicians we’re not going to be ignored.” | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

Illinois teacher at D.C. march: ‘We’re not going to be ignored’

SHARE Illinois teacher at D.C. march: ‘We’re not going to be ignored’
SHARE Illinois teacher at D.C. march: ‘We’re not going to be ignored’

WASHINGTON — Abigail Smith spent the day before she turned 30 participating in the Women’s March on Washington alongside hundreds of thousands also dismayed with the election of President Donald Trump.

She couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate her birthday than “spreading the love.”

“I think the most important thing is that we just keep showing up,” said Smith, a teacher at Oscar Mayer Magnet School in Lincoln Park.

Abigail Smith, a teacher at a school in Lincoln Park, spent her birthday weekend at the Women’s March in Washington. | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

Abigail Smith, a teacher at a school in Lincoln Park, spent her birthday weekend at the Women’s March in Washington. | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

“This is awesome,” she said pointing to the thongs of women, men and children who rallied Saturday a few blocks from where Trump the day before was sworn in as the country’s 45th president.

Many, like Smith traveled from Illinois, some coming alone, others bringing along their family.

Sheena Garland could hardly contain her emotions as she explained why she and two of her children made the trip from Mahomet. Joining her in the multi-state car ride were her 23-year-old son Austin Henderson and 16-year-old daughter Whitney Eisfelder.

“This is history,” the nurse said before turning to look at her daughter. “She needs to know her voice matters, and she can have a say.”

Sheena Garland (in Cubs shirt) of Mahomet, Ill., was at the march with her children (from left): Whitney Eisfelder, 16; Aubree Henderson, 25; and Austin Henderson, 23. | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

Sheena Garland (in Cubs shirt) of Mahomet, Ill., was at the march with her children (from left): Whitney Eisfelder, 16; Aubree Henderson, 25; and Austin Henderson, 23. | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

Pointing to her son, Garland said he chose to come because he’s “a good man.”

She’s especially concerned about access to health care eroding under Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress, including further limiting a women’s right to abortion. “We did this before. We shouldn’t have to do this again.”

Retired high school teacher Rebecca Beal of Glen Carbon decided weeks ago to make the trip with three of her friends. Her concern about what’s to come under the Trump administration has only grown with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

“We are here to remind our politicians we’re not going to be ignored.”

She and her husband accept Trump is the president and are taking a wait-and-see attitude about what’s to come. “We have to have hope.”

Deborah Zionts of Highland Park (left) met up at the march with daughter Sabrina and son Jacob. | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

Deborah Zionts of Highland Park (left) met up at the march with daughter Sabrina and son Jacob. | Suzanne McBride/Sun-Times

And Americans have to remain vigilant, said Deborah Zionts of Highland Park. She bought an airline ticket as soon as she heard about the march, which began after one woman suggested holding such an event just hours after Trump’s surprise victory.

Zionts met up Saturday with daughter Sabrina, who drove from Connecticut where she’s training to be a midwife, and son Jacob, a sophomore studying international relations at George Washington University.

“This is a big deal for women who’ve been victims of violence and have been triggered by the language Trump uses every day,” said Zionts, who does outreach and education for a domestic violence group and serves on the board of an organization fighting sex trafficking. “I’m here for all those women.”

Zionts wore a pink hat with cat ears that she finished knitting Friday. There was a sea of “pussyhats” at Saturday’s march, the name coming from the videotaped comments Trump made in 2005 about grabbing women’s private parts.

“Every single thing we do now makes a difference,” Zionts said. “And it has a ripple effect.”

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