I went down to DC with my friend Beth, and her younger brother and parents to see her brother's graduation from The Catholic University of America. I've never been to DC before so when Beth invited me to tag along I jumped at the chance. I knew that I wouldn't get to see much, since we were only going for the graduation, but I'd be happy just to drive by the White House. Not that I'm patriotic at all (in fact, I'm pretty anti-patriotic as far as I'm concerned) but I like to see everything anyway, just to say I've been there.
We left Boston at about 8:00 AM and drove straight down to DC . I haven't taken such a long road trip since 7th grade when we drove down to Virgina to go skiing. (Don't ask me why we drove 10 hours south to ski when we live in New England, When you're 12 years old you don't get to make decisions like that). Surprisingly, we made it down to our hotel by 5:00 PM, and that was after getting lost for an hour in Maryland trying to find our hotel. I was quite impressed with our quick drive time. After dinner we went downtown to the National Mall to see some sights. Evidently, it's quite popular to visit at night!
We drove into the city down North Capital St, and as you drive down the street, you can see the Capital Building in the distance getting closer and closer. It was all lit up and very impressive looking. When we got downtown we parked and got some nice pictures of the Capital Building first.
After walking around there for a bit, we pilled back into into the car and headed over to the National Mall. I would highly recommend checking it out at night. Everything is lit up, its very dramatic. We walked around looking at some of the smaller monuments, and made our way over to the Lincoln Memorial.
Once we made our way through the hordes of middle schoolers on tours we made our way up to the top of the stairs at the Lincoln Memorial. From the top of the stairs there was also a great view of the Washington Monument.
We then walked back down to the park and walked around to the Korean War Monument which was great. It really looked to me as though they were soldiers wading through a rice patty at night. Very dramatic. Behind the statues of soldiers there is a wall with etchings of soldiers that served in the war. Keep your eye out for the dog on there. We found it. This monument was very special for me, since my grandfather served in this war. Not that he ever told me much about it, though.
We then made our way over to the Vietnam War Memorial. I've always seen pictures of this on TV, but to see it in person is much more dramatic. I knew that the death toll from this war was very high, but to see name after name on panel after panel it really drives the message home. This war in Iraq now really pales in comparison (as far as American casualties). But, then again, we're not out of there yet.
On Friday morning we went to Arlington National Cemetery. We were able to take a bus tour through the cemetery. There were stops at the Kennedy grave site, the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, and General Robert E. Lee's house. At the Kennedy grave site, you can see the burial place of JFK, Jackie Onassis and their two children who died in childhood. Around the corner is Robert Kennedy's grave, which is just a single white wooden cross. My question is, how come the Kennedy's get such special treatment? JFK gets an eternal flame and Robert Kennedy gets buried directly under Lee's house. I'm not saying that JFK wasn't a great guy, but he didn't even serve a full term before he got assassinated. Maybe he just wasn't in office long enough to screw things up like most of our other presidents have. Well, I guess he did do lots of good things for the country like civil rights, resolve the Cuban missile crisis and get the space race going. At any rate, the grave site is very impressive.
The tour bus then took us up to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, where we got to see the changing of the guard. Evidently the soldier walks 21 steps in front of the tomb, stops and faces the tomb for 21 seconds, turns for 21 seconds and then repeats the process. 21 seconds represents the 21 gun salute. I counted the seconds after the guard we were watching took his 21 step walk and faced the tomb. It was more like 45 seconds. At least. But all the heel clicking and gun maneuvering was very impressive. I won't be stealing any bodies from there anytime soon. I wonder if the guns are loaded? What do they think about while they are just standing there? Do they ever forget what they are doing? Do you think that at night they stand there so formally like they do when the tourists are watching? These are the things I think about while I watch the guards stand there.
Then we headed back onto the bus which brought us over to General Robert E. Lee's house. Did you know that Arlington National Cemetery was built on his property? I guess it was just one last way to screw over the south for the war. Anyway, Lee's house is still there, but there isn't any furniture inside. I guess there are tours, but we didn't have time to do one. We had to head over to the Baccalaureate mass at Catholic. I'll put a whole new post for this, because I want to talk about the Basilica, which I think deserves it's own page here.