Lost in a sea of junior highers, Amanda and I found ourselves at The Jefferson Memorial this week. The overwhelming chaos (we’re talking hundreds of 12-14 year olds) could not take away from the moment.
When Amanda recommended the Jefferson, I haphazardly went along. I was indifferent as to the location of where we went, as long as we got out and did something before the conference was in full swing and our minds were spinning.
We started on our journey with a quick stop at Starbucks (of course) and was distracted with a woman from West Palm Beach who was also working in anti-trafficking. Her passion for the issue was contagious and time flew by without us realizing it. Lucky for us, most of the monuments stay open for 24 hours, so at 8pm we were off…well kind of. We were actually stopped by the doorman who after giving me the “parent” look and a quick head shake, informed me that he would be more than happy to hail us a cab as soon as I went back upstairs and put on a coat.
As the cab dropped us off, I was mesmerized by the evening and the memorial. We couldn’t have went at a more perfect time. Everything was lit just right. And, once we were inside, I was sold.
Everywhere I looked, there were quotes on true liberty and freedom. It shook me to my core to think that the battle for these simple words have been waging for years. As one hurdle is overcome, more hurdles emerge, or at least a new awareness does.
At one point, Amanda and I were standing in the rotunda, reading about liberty and surrounded by these kids when Amanda looked over at me and said, “these kids are the same age as many of the girls we are working with.”
The reality hit quicker than I expected. We were in DC for a conference in anti-trafficking. We know all the statistics and many of them we’ve experienced. I can tell you that close to 80-90% of our girls had a sexual trauma before the age of 13. I can tell you that the youngest victim we have worked with at this point is 12, but we’ve recently received calls about numerous 11 year olds.
I’ve watched as young girls are triggered by simple things like a cell phone going off, loud music, or in one instance an exit sign. I’ve heard story after story of young girls being ripped of their innocence, their choice, their childhood.
As I stood there that night I was filled with a little bit of despair, BUT I was also filled with a lot of hope. I was reminded that all throughout history, good men and women have stood up and fought for their freedoms and liberties, as well as for other people’s. I was reminded that today, there are men and women fighting for my freedom and my voice. And, I was reminded that what I am doing is not in vain, or impossible for that matter. If one girl realizes what true freedom is and what her voice is, it is worth it.
So, as I celebrate Veteran’s Day today, I can celebrate with a new perspective and a new understanding of what freedom truly is.