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Epic Snowfall Makes for an Epic Trip for AMU Students

To say that things didn't go according to plan for Ave Maria University students who journeyed to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life would be a huge understatement.

The 150 students who boarded three buses Wednesday for the trip got to the nation's capital, but never did get to the march because university officials determined it would be prudent for them to come home early, ahead of what proved to be one of the most significant snowfalls ever in the national capital area. They arrived back in Ave Maria safely at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning after spending more than 40 hours on buses but AMU Students for Life President Theresa Antunes said the decision to come back early was the right one, even though students were initially disappointed.

life3b"We'd probably still be in Washington, or stuck on a highway like many other buses if we hadn't come back when we did," she said. (A group of students from the midwest, stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, celebrated Mass on a snow altar.)

The trip began uneventfully on Wednesday, Miss Antunes said, but before the buses pulled in to Washington Thursday afternoon the decision had already been made to come back early the next day. So the students decided to have their own "mini march," (right) walking the route of the actual march and praying for an end to abortion. "We offered up the sacrifice of not being able to stay," she said.

They spent Thursday night at a church and parish center in Virginia, attended Mass the next morning and were back on the buses at 8 a.m. Friday as others gathered in Washington for the march.

snowThe trip back was hardly uneventful, though. When they stopped for dinner Friday in South Carolina, the driver of one of the buses accidentally backed the bus into an obstacle at the Burger King in which the students were eating, shattering two windows in the rear of the bus, Miss Antunes said. So the students moved all their belongings from that bus and another company provided a temporary bus for them to continue the trip. When they arrived in Florida, yet another bus was provided.

The students missed the brunt of the storm, but still ran into some snow and ice in Virginia and North Carolina. For some of them, Miss Antunes said, it was the first time they saw snow, and they had some fun in it at a rest stop in Virginia (picture at left).

In all, the trip home took 23 and a-half hours.

"It definitely was not what we planned," said Miss Antunes, who had been working on details of the trip for the last year. "But everyone had a great attitude and took it in stride."

Mis Antunes's roomate, Mary Beth Santoro, said that the words that keep coming to mind when she thinks about the experience are "long and blessed."

"Even though it was difficult, it was a blessed experience."

life2xThe AMU students weren't the only ones from Southwest Florida affected. Ave Maria Master Association manager Luisa Rosales was with a group of 20 from the youth group at St. Agnes Church who flew to Washington Wednesday. When the magnitude of the storm became clear, the group rebooked their flights home but were not able to get reservations until Monday. When the storm cleared, though, they were able to explore Washington and even helped free a car that had become stuck in the snow. (Left, youths from St. Agnes helped a motorist stuck in the snow.)

Mis Antunes said she had participated in the March for Life for 11 consecutive years before this year. She has memories from all of them, but, "We'll never forget this trip," she said.
 

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