Monday, April 28, 2008
Back From DC
I spent this weekend in "our Nation's Capitol", but, unlike Forrest Gump, I did not spend any time with anyone named Jenny. Nor, unfortunately, did I get to spend any time with Liz. We were both overwhelmed by obligations, and did not get a chance to get together, much to my dismay.
I spent most of my time there in the Hyatt, attending a teacher's conference. I walked the few blocks to Union Station for lunch on Friday, and on Saturday to take a "Monuments By Moonlight" tour which began at the famous train station. That was about the extent of my jaunting around Capitol Hill. We drove past: the White House, the Supreme Court, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian (the Smithsonian castle, the Air and Space Museum, and about five other Smithsonians as well...), some of the House and Senate buildings, the Washington Monument, and even over the river to Arlington. The tour did stop at some locations, where we could get out and walk around for a bit.
Our first stop was the relatively new park dedicated to FDR. The area has lots of statues and fountains, and was awash in golden light from the many fountains and fallen cherry blossoms. We had thirty minutes to explore the park, and we all took advantage of the time to wander through the memorial. The section devoted to the the "Faces of the Depression" was haunting and lovely.
The next stop was across the river, into Virginia: the Iwo Jima Memorial. I had seen pictures of it, including the iconic image of the servicemen raising the flag over Mount Suribachi which the monument depicts, but there's nothing quite like standing in front of it.
After Iwo Jima, we drove past Arlington, and across the river again to the Lincoln Memorial. The Lincoln Memorial has three monuments on its grounds: the Lincoln Memorial (obviously...), the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. When we arrived, the sun was fully down, and there was a cool wind blowing. I headed first for the Korean War Memorial. There was something quite unreal about standing alone amidst the life-size statues who looked as if they'd merely been frozen in time. I was the only person around -- all of the others had headed straight for the Lincoln Memorial -- so it was quiet, with only the sound of the skittering cherry blossoms flowing around my ankles on the cooling breeze. The floodlights hit the statues, throwing faces from long ago into eerie shadow. The POW/MIA flag above the site fluttered with the wind. I walked away, feeling humbled; awed.
I walked through the dark paths, reading the names of countries chiseled into the granite as I headed for the Lincoln Memorial. As I reached the top of the monument, I turned to see the Washington Monument across the Reflecting Pool. It was breathtaking. Once inside the memorial, I stood at Lincoln's feet, and looked up at his marbled face, and wondered what he'd think of our country today.
Time was up all too soon, and I headed back for the trolley. The tour didn't stop at very many places, but I was grateful for having what little time I could squeak out for visiting the few I was able to see. I hope I'm able to visit there again one day, and to take my family with me. It really helps you put things into perspective when you can see it for yourself.