Hundreds of Granite Staters are heading to Washington, D.C., this week for the national March for Life.
Among those attending Wednesday's events will be 75 students from Trinity High School in Manchester.
Brian Flaherty, director of campus ministry at the Catholic school, noted today's teens were all born after Roe. v. Wade. "For a lot of them, it strikes home there was the potential they would not be here if their mother had made another choice," he said.
It's not a luxurious trip, Flaherty said. The students and 10 adult chaperones travel by bus to D.C., where they stay overnight at separate boys' and girls' schools, sleeping on the floor. "That's another powerful witness, that people are willing to give up a lot of their comfort, sleep and time in freezing cold to speak out on this issue," he said.
Valerie Lynn Somers of Nashua organizes a bus trip to the Washington march for the Diocese of Manchester each year. This year, about 300 people are going.
They'll leave early Tuesday morning, arriving in Washington in time for Mass at a local church that evening. Bishop Peter Libasci will say Mass for the New Hampshire contingent Wednesday morning before they all head to the Mall for the march, she said.
Somers has been going to the march since she was 9 years old, when her parents organized the diocesan trip.Those early years, she said, "I remember that there weren't many kids. There weren't many young people at all...My parents actually seemed young in that crowd.
"But each year, she said, the crowd has gotten "bigger and bigger, and younger and younger.
"Young people have actually seen abortion affect their lives personally, and so they're starting to take a stand because of it," she said. "They've seen people be hurt by it and they're starting to crave the truth on this issue."
Somers said participants each year tell her how inspiring it is to see hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country come together for life. "On this issue, you can feel alone at times. You go home knowing that that's not the case."
Somers, 33, is the mother of two young sons, who will accompany her and her husband to Washington this year. Having her own children only deepened her commitment to the issue, and the march, she said.
"When I got down there and people had signs with pictures of abortion and started sharing their stories about lost babies through abortion and how they regretted that, it broke my heart," she said.
It's the same for Flaherty, who has three children. "When my wife was pregnant and I'd see their ultrasounds, or when I see them born, it just strikes me: what would my life be without them," he said.
And as a Catholic school teacher, he said, "I think it's important...to bring these kids down there, to let them know they are not alone and there are other people who think just like them."
The highlight of the annual journey for him is the youth rally and mass hosted by the Washington archdiocese in the Verizon Center before the march.
While some of the speeches on the Washington Mall can get partisan and political, he said, "What I like about the youth rally is it's so positive and uplifting."
"It's just striking to see all those kids together."