Monday, September 01, 2008

DC in Detail

On June 8th, I posted a rough recap of our first day in DC (that Saturday, June 7th). I promised to repost an edited version with photos. Here goes.

We woke up and bolted out of here at 7:45 am, rushing to the Metro to try to get tickets that would allow us to go to the top of the Washington Monument, later that day.

They they start giving them away at 8:30am so we thought we had left in plenty of time but we actually got the last set of three together. I called my folks to say, "Hi" but wasn't up for talking much. It was still before 6am in California. I was hot the weather was muggy and I hadn't had breakfast or any caffeine. We got the last 3 tickets for the last slot of the day which was what we wanted as we had tickets for other activities at noon and 7pm.

Next, we walked to the Jefferson National Memorial. It was beautiful and impressive. I had never seen it up close. I liked reading the words to the Declaration of Independence from inside the monument.

A kid from Wisconsin asked Sam where he was from. When he said, San Francisco, they asked, "You've been on the Golden Gate Bridge?" When he answered, "Yes," he was congratulated. Another kid from the group said, "We should take a picture w/this kid." They did. Outside, a small high school (or middle school) band was playing the Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs. It brought back memories of traveling and performing with the band when I was in school junior high and high school.

We walked past where the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, where they print the paper money. (Which we learned isn't actually made of paper but fiber-like cotton, according to our tour guide that night.)

Outside the Holocaust Museum, I admired Ronald Regan's words that were engraved on one of the walls. Since we still had some time before our tour of the Holocaust Museum, we had some breakfast, including a knish. It was nice to cool-off, relax and refuel. The ladies made a delicious iced vanilla coffee drink for me. The caffeine and air conditioning helped.

We decided to go check out the WWII Memorial. That morning, my mom mentioned that it was one of the newer memorials and none of us had seen it before. There wasn't much shade so our walk there was hot. I was moved by Bronze panels, which told stories of people's experience's during WWI, on the walkway to and from the fountain.

From there, we saw the White House in the distance, as we walked around the Washington Monument, instead of cutting through the center of the park, to stay in the shade of the trees on the periphery.

I wish we'd have been there a couple of weeks before, to witness the Forgotten Children Exhibit. For one work week, CASA staff, volunteers and supporters placed 850 life-size displays of foster children at the Washington Monument, each day. These displays represented the 850 children who enter the foster care system on a daily basis. By the end of the week, 4,250 displays stood in front of the monument, representing the 4,250 children who entered foster care during the workweek. (photo credit)

Near our admission time, we returned to the Holocaust Museum. The first exhibit we toured was in the basement. It featured the Nazi Olympics held in Berlin in 1936.

Before entering The Holocaust's permanent exhibit, each of us selected the ID card bearing information about a person who was Jewish and their experience, during the Holocaust. Two of the three people, whose ID card we selected, died. From what I understand, seems to be representative of what happened to the millions of people were wrongly persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and murdered during that time.

Walking through the exhibit that day, seemed to be the first in-depth telling of the history of the Holocaust that Sam had experienced. I was proud of his seriousness and willingness to watch, listen and learn. I learned much too.

Walking through Daniel's Story, a Child's Story of the Holocaust, helped person-
alize the infor-
mation and bring the experience to life for us. It was a lot to absorb but incredibly important. Awhile ago, as a family, we started reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I would like to finish it soon. I just saw that they are making it into a movie that will be released on November 7th.

We thought about eating on the grounds of the Washington Monument but it really felt like we were in a sauna outside so we opted for another hour of air conditioning and ended up having lunch in the cafe of the Museum of Natural History. I was happy to be able to have an egg plant sandwich and a salad (even if they were just OK). Sam shared his fries and Cam and I split a chocolate bar.

Our next stop was the Washington Monument. Before arriving in DC, I'd been saying that I'd wanted to go to the top of it my whole life. Standing at the base of it that morning, I remembered that I had been to the top of it when I was here with my 6th grade class. What I'd remembered before this visit was that I hadn't been able to go to the top the last time I was here, when Sam was three. This time, we had tickets.

Thankfully, the bench for people with tickets for the 4:30pm tour was in the shadow of the monument. Sam and I reminisced about how we liked to go to the top of the Arch when we lived in St. Louis. We also talked about how we had gone to the top of the John Hancock Building and the Sears Tower in Chicago. I just remembered that I also called him from the top of the Empire State Building, when I was in NYC for work, when he was five. The view from the top of the Washington monument is impressive on each of the four sides.

Once we were back on the ground, we took a walk along a park, past the White House, to the National Archives building. We talked about how this was the place where Nicholas Cage stole the Declaration of Independence in that National Treasure movie. We stood in line to get inside the building then stood in line to get to see the documents. It was memorable to be that close to the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence.

Afterwards, we walked towards the Capitol, along another park and arrived at Union Station. In a bit, we'd catch a trolley that would take us on a night tour of the monuments. In the meantime, we enjoyed some well-deserved Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Of course, the child opted for a fruit smoothie. My Chunky Monkey (banana ice cream w/walnuts and chocolate chunks) in a waffle cone was quite enjoyable.

Jazzy Jan was our driver and tour guide on the trolley. She was infor-
mative, humorous and fun. She kept us moving but made sure we had just enough time at each stop.

The first stop was at the Franklin Delanor Roosevelt Memorial. I hadn't been to the FDR memorial before. His quotes about social responsibility are inspiring to me. (photo credit)

(As I was writing this post, I received a text message from Barack Obama asking me to make a donation to the American Red Cross. I did. You can too.)

The sunset was lovely.

Our next stop was near the Lincoln Memorial. We walked over the the Vietnam National Memorial first.

Explaining to Sam that each name, which took up such a tiny bit of space, represented a life made the magnitude of the wall's size significant.

I told him about how I'd been there with my family when I was about his age.

Here is the photo, I mentioned previously, of my brother standing next to my dad at the wall.

I remember my dad being moved when he found the names of men he knew on the wall.

After the Vietnam War Memorial, we walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to go meet Abe. He is impressive.

We read the Gettysburg Address and then sat on the steps of the monument, looking out on the Reflecting Pool, the WWII Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the distance.

There was a storm brewing in the area and we enjoyed seeing streaks of lightning in the distance. Sometimes, the lightning would light up the clouds.

Before returning to the trolley, we walked through the Korean War Memorial. The faces of the men looking out at us were captivating. (photo credit)

Our final stop on the trolley was the Iwo Jima Memorial. We learned that the statue, of the men raising a flag on the top of the island's highest point, is the largest bronze sculpture in the world. (photo credit)

We learned other interesting pieces of information, as it started to rain and we rode the trolley back to Union Station. From there, we took the Metro back to the stop closest to our hotel and went back to the room to rest and relax.

After a shower, I watched a video of Hilary Clinton calling on her supporters to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States. It was a day full of patriotic experiences.

Cam's 91-year-old grandmother, Lurene and his dad's sister, his Aunt Mary Lu, came into DC, from Maryland, to spend the day with Cameron and Sam. They went to the Native American Museum for lunch. I'm glad I was able to to see them for a few minutes before I headed off to my conference. It sounded like they had a great day.

Cam's does an effective job of summing up the rest of the trip with this list.

We were all learning, each day. Maybe another day, I will write a separate blog post about how I got to go to Capitol Hill and meet with representatives from Congress, including Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi's cheif of staff, asking them to do more for our kids. Their interest and concern was moving.

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