In an effort to "give a voice to the quilt" that commemorates people who have died from AIDS, tens of thousands took to the streets of the nation's capital Saturday night in a candlelight march.
Organizers estimated that 150,000 attended the National AIDS Candlelight March, which began at the Capitol and ended with speeches and entertainment in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The U.S. Park Police no longer estimates the size of crowds attending such events and independent estimates were difficult to obtain. However, people drifted in and out of the area all day Saturday and by the time of the candlelight service, a huge throng encircled the Reflecting Pool. Spilling past either end of the pool, the crowd stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, a distance of about one-half mile.
Elizabeth Taylor, one of the leading advocates for people living with AIDS, served as grand marshal of the event and urged the mass of people surrounding the Reflecting Pool to grieve for loved ones lost and to continue the search for a cure to the disease which has taken the lives of more than 300,000 people.
"We must convert the collective pain to achieve a sense of peace," she said. "The quilt has taught us much about how elegantly life can be lived and how quickly it can be lost."
Joining Taylor in addressing the marchers were Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.), actress Judith Light, tennis star Martina Navratilova and Cleve Jones, who initiated the quilt program in 1985.
The week leading up to Saturday night's march and vigil included the unveiling of the AIDS Quilt on Friday.
Singer Chaka Khan and singing group The Tony Rich Project sang a rendition of "Amazing Grace" to open the program.