But I want to tell you all, my fellow Texans, how grateful I am for you, too.
Then on Sunday, roughly a thousand of you showed up for the House debate and vote on the bill, many of you again staying very late into the night. You lined the hallways of the capitol and stared down the representatives who were going to soon vote away your right to bodily autonomy. You filled the gallery, following ridiculous rules of decorum that existed only so that members of the House could act like you weren’t there at all. You held signs, you chanted, you cheered and booed along with debate as you watched it on a live feed in an auditorium in the basement of the capitol.
And then on Tuesday – a day I will never forget – at least two thousand of you showed up to support Wendy Davis’ filibuster. There were people who sat in uncomfortable gallery seats for over 10 hours, their knees jammed into the row of chairs in front of them, foregoing food and bathroom breaks for fear of losing their place in the gallery. Because the line to get into the gallery wrapped around three floors of the Texas state capitol by 8pm that night. You were patient, you were friendly, and you were there.
On each of these days (Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday), people drove in from all over the state. I saw people from El Paso, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth. There were people on both Thursday and Tuesday who worked all day, then got in their cars, and drove hours to be there, some driving back that same night.
The crowd that night wasn’t diverse in a way that truly represented the diversity of Texas (but rather represented the lack of diversity in Austin). Jennifer Longoria, a Hispanic woman who grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and now lives in San Antonio, told me that she didn’t view the lack of diversity in a bad way. “It’s good to see that women that aren’t of color were there to represent those who couldn’t be there because of work or childcare,” she said. “If you couldn’t do the drive [to the capitol on] Tuesday, you certainly couldn’t do the drive if you needed an abortion.”
Looking around, I saw the faces of both men and women. There were families, university students, people the age of my grandparents. Ellen Sweets, a 73-year-old writer and author living in Austin, told me that she saw “so many young women.” She said that the number of young people in the crowd on Tuesday “gave lie to the notion that millennials are not engaged, not concerned.” And she noted specifically that so many of those young people were not there lightly: “I was surrounded by so many young people, ones willing to go to jail.”
People from all different walks of life helped me distribute food to the thousands gathered in the rotunda after 10pm on Tuesday night. I stood between a lesbian couple on my right and a mom standing with her teenage daughter on my left during that final, fateful hour. So, while I was mainly looking around at a lot of women who looked like me, I was struck by the overall community of people. And then, with 10 minutes left until midnight, this group of Texans mainly made up of women, literally raised their voices collectively and so loudly that we made it impossible for the legislators to vote through sexist, horrific legislation.
Finally, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who had left her father’s funeral to return for the filibuster. Having been passed over by the President of the Senate repeatedly, when she finally got the chance to speak, Van De Putte said, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” Later, on Twitter, she admitted, “I was so emotionally frustrated and exhausted. The words just came out.” But those words set off the gallery. And the gallery set off the people waiting in the hallway, and they set off the rest of us in the rotunda.
In those final minutes, I felt like I saw the future and I saw what Texas could be. I am not naive. I know it was a single event and we have a long, uphill climb ahead of us. It took a whole lot of Texans and a whole lots of work for many days to make those final 12 minutes even a possibility. And yet we did it. You, my fellow Texas citizens, are the ones that made that happen.