MIDDLEPORT — For Andrew Johnson, 18, of Middleport, his trip to Washington, D.C., was initially supposed to be a two-day trip in which he, other members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and other local Catholics in the region, rallied during a Pro-Life walk through the nation’s capital.
And while the trip to D.C. on Jan. 21 and the march itself went according to plan, Winter Storm Jonas had different plans for the return home.
“It didn’t cross any of our minds to cancel the walk (because of weather),” he said. “We just took it as, ‘We better start this walk soon and head out as soon as it’s done.’”
In fact, Andrew said the bus went through Pennsylvania on the way back from the march to avoid some of Jonas’ wrath. Instead, the bus on which Johnson was riding found itself stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for about 21 hours.
“We stopped moving at about 5:30 p.m. Friday and started moving again about 2:30 p.m. Saturday,” he said.
Andrew said that everyone was fine for the most part, although snack portions began to run low as many had been eaten on the way to D.C., and what snacks were left were typically given to the younger marchers in the group. Bus riders were also beginning to lose cell phone battery life because the bus did not have plugs.
Andrew said one of the two other buses that traveled with the caravan had places to plug in phones, and that late morning/early afternoon on Saturday he volunteered to take some cell phones from his bus to the bus with the plug-ins. However, about half a mile into his walk, he was told by Pennsylvania State Police that the other bus had already been cleared of snow and was moving again.
“We didn’t have enough communication with them, that’s why we didn’t know (they’d left),” he said. “I marched half a mile to find out they were gone.”
He said the bus that had just left was probably freed about two hours before they were. So in his quest to return back to his own bus, Andrew said he also took in the scene around him. He added that he’d taken photos when they’d first stopped moving as well, although he had a scare in which he thought he’d lost his cell phone in snow.
“We saw quite a few accidents, and we saw vehicles that were just buried in snow, even semi-trucks that were buried in snow,” he said. “It was mayhem on the roads.”
Andrew said that some vehicles in the middle of the roadway had even been abandoned, leaving vehicles cleared to have to move around them in the middle of a major interstate.
And finally, once the bus was dug out of the snow by local officials, Andrew and his group arrived in Meigs County about 8 p.m. Saturday.
Ramond Johnson, Andrew’s father, who remained in Meigs County, said he kept tabs with his son during the tumultuous time of being stuck on the turnpike.
“As a parent, it is no surprise I was worried for their safety,” Ramond said. “I fielded several queries as to whether I had heard anything. The communication level from the adults and some of their charges was excellent. Their assurance that they were safe was a great relief.
“I was very happy to pick him up. As per his personality, he enjoyed every moment. Any weather-related inconvenience we had here was a shadow of what they and others experienced.”
Andrew said that he was glad he’d gone and that he wouldn’t change a thing, especially since the lack of technology while being stuck meant that he really had to bond with those around him who shared the same passion for the same cause.
“I still feel exhausted from the experience, but I would definitely do it again,” he said of the march. “Even though what has happened was pretty bad, I would go on that trip a thousand more times to march for the reason I did.”
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