- John Bunyan (Shepherd Boy's Song)
Day 22 - Friday, July 14, 1995 - Just after sunrise the walkers circled up, smudging with one of the bundles of California sage. Tom Dostou called VaLaine Lighty forward, and honored her with an eagle feather.
VaLaine, who has Tuscarora heritage in her family, has been notably strong since Day 1 of our walk, Tom said. She never complains, is always cheerful, and helps others. VaLaine is a positive person who earned the honor of an Eagle feather for all she has done, Tom said.
Earlier in the walk, Rita Sebastian and Alycia Longriver were also honored with Eagle feathers.
|Crossing the river - the Sunbow pilgrims crossed the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia today. (Photo by BGWilson89, courtesy of flckr.com).
Once the pilgrims got on the road for the day they crossed the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and were welcomed to Philadelphia by two officials from the Regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The walkers were escorted about one mile to the EPA offices, where they met with nearly 30 officials to discuss on what they have seen as the pilgrimage has unfolded.
"I hate to say it," Tom told the officials, "but it looks terrible all the way down the East Coast. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are vast stretches of wasteland where we have been walking. We are unable to wash our faces or hands in the rivers, streams, and ponds we pass. There is no way to cool off or cleanse ourselves as we should be able to, and the air is so bad. We see a lot of trash that people have thrown out.
"People don't see these things, or come to know about them, when they drive by at 65 or 70 miles an hour. But they are there. It's real. It's a mess all the way. And you do see it and know it when you are walking."
Rita Sebastian, Charles Byington, and Gaston Lavoie also spoke at the meeting. Gaston, who is from Canada, reminded the officials that the world is watching the United States to see how it treats the environment, how it cares for the Earth, and how it treats the women and children. "You may not know it because you are here," he said, "but the rest of the world is looking to you, and watching you because you are so big, rich, and strong. This nation is a leader, and it was founded on high ideals that were spelled out right here in Philadelphia. The rest of the world watches to see which way you are leading, and to decide whether they will follow."
Apparently the walkers themselves are also being watched. Jim Dunning called to tell me that two men, at separate times, made visits to his house. The walkers had left their gear at his home, planning to pick it up in the afternoon. But before they returned Jim saw a clean-cut young man in casual dress, about 6'1" and 180 pounds, walk down his driveway and look around. The man stood there for a few minutes looking, and then walked on. He came back about ten minutes later to look again, and Jim spoke with him. The man showed no identification, but asked about the gear, and where they were all going.
Somewhat later another man, of similar description, also walked up Jim's driveway, and looked around suspiciously. When he noticed Jim he said, "Oh, excuse me," and pivoted sharply around to walk away. He disappeared swiftly on foot.
"I've lived here for three years," said Jim, a Vietnam veteran who works at the local veterans center."I've never seen anything like that before," he said, "nor have any of my neighbors. Now it happens twice in the same day? You have to wonder. I don't know who they were, and I don't know what they wanted to see. I'm not the paranoid type, but they could very well have been covert law-enforcement personnel."
In the afternoon the walkers visited Independence National Park in downtown Philadelphia. They saw the Liberty Bell and the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The walkers also saw dozens of beggars and homeless people nearby. "It makes us feel bad, almost ill, to see so many brothers and sisters with no homes and no respect, living on the street all over the place. It really says something to see them here, by the Liberty Bell," Tom observed. "They are miserable, and the pollution is so bad. You can really feel it today with the temperatures so high." Temperatures were hovering at about 100 degrees on Friday, and expected to be higher on Saturday, part of the ongoing heat wave affecting most of the country.
In the evening the walkers were treated to a big spaghetti dinner put on by the United American Indians of Delaware Valley, an organization with members who represent 37 different American Indian nations. The dinner, a public event, raised some money for the walk.
"They were kind to us," Tom said. "They fed us, and talked with us like brothers and sisters. It really felt like being home on the reservation, even though we were in a big city. They were happy to hear about the walk, and they spoke of their support for what we are doing. Three women sang a traditional honoring song for us, and that was wonderful. It made us feel so good to hear their voices and to feel their love."
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden