By REBECCA RAKOCZY, Special To The Bulletin | Published January 31, 2008
They have been coming to the memorial service and silent march for the unborn since they were toddlers, standing at the Georgia Capitol steps every Jan. 22 to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, then walking silently for blocks with their parents, as abortion advocates lined the streets and yelled epithets at them.
When they were preteens in the 1990s, during the first Gulf War, their sign, “A baby is safer in Iraq than in their mother’s womb in the U.S.,” was grabbed and ripped apart by protestors. But the boys said they got tape and put their sign back together.
Now grown men, Michael and Gene Garcia-Carreras have become tireless marchers for life, listening to the speakers at the Capitol with the hope that this will be the year that abortion is outlawed. They joined their mother, Rosie, who remembers marching in 1973 when the movement was so new there was “only a handful” of pro-life advocates.
And although they carried no sign this year, they were encouraged by the thousands who gathered, despite a steady, cold drizzle.
“Even at Mass, there was no room to walk, it was so crowded,” said Gene Garcia-Carreras, who attended the Mass for the Unborn at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception prior to the memorial service. He noted that people were lined up outside to hear the Mass.
This year, the Garcia-Carrerases joined more than 5,000 pro-lifers of all denominations and ages, who came to the Georgia Right to Life-organized event to hear speakers that included Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Gov. Sonny Perdue and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, also spoke to the crowd.
As the rain came down, umbrellas popped up, and everyone huddled closer, waiting for the event to start. Despite the chilly weather, the mood had the feeling of a festive—but very large—family reunion, as long-time marchers greeted newcomers. Young children munched on crackers and sandwiches, and the scent of hot coffee and cocoa wafted through the air.
Christian musician Doug Stroup and his band played in the rain, before the speakers took the podium. Students from St. Pius X High School in Atlanta and other Catholic and Christian schools, huddled together for warmth in their letter jackets, but more seasoned marchers came in parkas and rain jackets.
This was the second year Sophie Conboy, now a sophomore at St. Pius X, has come to the march.
“I came to support the pro-life movement,” she said simply.
“Every year, I see more and more people here,” said Tori O’Bryant, a parishioner of St. Pius X Church in Conyers, who has been coming to the memorial service and march for the past five years. On the other hand, those who oppose the pro-life viewpoint seem fewer, she said.
“My first year, protestors were lined up on the (Central Avenue) bridge, but every year, there seems to be less and less.”
Before the silent march began, Archbishop Gregory engaged the gathering in rousing prayer, reminding them of the nation’s Founding Fathers’ wish for all to have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The archbishop prayed, “We ask our Creator to change those hearts that need to be softened.” He prayed that a respect for life from the moment of its existence would be restored and that the United States would return to the wisdom the Founding Fathers offered.
Huckabee, who took the podium after being introduced by Perdue, echoed the archbishop’s reflection on the Founding Fathers, and thanked the Catholic Church “whose voices were louder and clearer earlier on in the fight against abortion than anyone else.”
While they agreed the speeches from politicians supporting the pro-life effort were nice to hear, Mark and Cindy Cassandra were more interested in the issue at hand than who they were going to support at the polls.
“We are here to support the unborn. We believe this is our biggest crisis, the lack of respect for life,” said Mark Cassandra, who sends his children to Pinecrest Academy in Cumming.
This was the first time Pam Griffiths came to the march. The St. Peter Chanel parishioner from Roswell brought her daughter, Shannon, and marveled at the turnout.
“I think it’s great that all different Catholic communities are coming out for the support for the unborn,” she said.
When he finished listening to the speakers, Tony Caruso, a health and physical education teacher at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn, was circumspect.
“I haven’t heard all the candidates speak on this (pro-life), but I wonder if we will see a change in our lifetime?” he asked.
He then joined the OLM students, who melted into the throngs walking down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Buglers played taps as a tribute to the estimated 48 million infants aborted in the United States since the Supreme Court ruling in 1973, 35 years ago.
As the thousands marched silently with their banners and placards, there was something missing as they turned onto Central Avenue.
For the first time in years, there was not a single pro-abortion protestor on the Central Avenue bridge.