My Trip to DC – Part Two
I still haven’t gotten the pictures of our trip over to my computer, so I’ve borrowed some from around the web.
Photo from Brandon Fuller
My mom stood, remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. telling the world about his dream. The peace marches. So many events in our history that happened right here. Most of them before I was born. Before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.
And yet, those words are alive to me.
I’m not normally a very emotional person, but I couldn’t not help being a bit misty-eyed. Here I stood, a simple citizen of this country, in the very place where one man is honored for his wise and articulate words. A wartime President who strove to keep the Union together, above all else, and said in the closing of his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Here I stood, in the very place where one man stood and gave his nation notice that the Constitution says “All men are created equal.” A man who stood in this very spot and gave us a dream. A dream that has begun, but still needs to be made into reality. A man who believed that one day, that dream would come true.
“And when this happens, When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
As you walk toward ‘the Wall’ from the Lincoln Memorial, you enter a wooded area. To the left, little stands along the path hold books listing each soldier and the location of their name. To the right, the sculpture of three soldiers. They appear to have just walked out, and look over the Wall. Walking along the path, looking at the names etched into the granite, I thought of all those listed. Their families, their friends, their sweethearts whose lives were changed forever by their losses. I thought of the protests and the peace marches, the multitude of voices who, in speeches and songs, called for an end to a never-ending war.
Like so many others who’ve stood here, my mom doesn’t need the History Channel to tell her about America and Vietnam. She remembers the eighteen months spent waiting for word on her brother after he was declared MIA. She remembers the friend who died in service to his country. She remembers the protests and the peace marches. She remembers young men being drafted, some of whom enlisted in the Navy or Air Force, others who ran for the border. All hoping to be spared the fate of so many others.
If you ask, she’ll tell you that she sees the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam didn’t begin as a bloody fiasco, but the lies used to start it, the contradictions between policy and reality, and the ‘stay the course’ rhetoric of the Johnson administration made sure it ended that way.
Vietnam Women’s Memorial
Photo from davidpride.com
This is one of the most emotionally-charged places in Washington, at least for me. Women’s deaths in wars were generally ignored until this current war. It wasn’t until some 10 or 15 years ago that the women who served as nurses in Vietnam were considered ‘veterans’ entitled to the same benefits as the soldiers they cared for.
In this bronze sculpture, one woman holds a young soldier in her lap, while a second stands beside her looking into the sky. A third kneels (in prayer?) behind the standing figure. The expressions on their faces – fear, anguish, determination, desperation – seem so real.
This sculpture literally took my breath away.
After seeing this memorial, and getting some pictures, it was time to make the long walk back to the Capitol Building. We made our way past the Washington Memorial to a hot dog stand (the one under the big blue tent) where I got a hot dog and a bottle of water, and Mom and I had a few piece of the giant chocolate bar she’d brought. I do have to say that the prices in DC were not that bad, considering what you got. Especially compared to theme parks and airports!
We walked back up the Mall and just before the end of the Mall, saw two satellite trucks from WYOU, a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre television station. Upon reaching the corner where we were to meet the bus, we simultaneously discovered the Botanic Garden and saw that most of the group was already there. I guess the events at the Cannon Office Building and in the Capitol Building had ended, and they were ready to leave. Thinking perhaps they’d been waiting on us, we asked about the bus and were assured that it wasn’t coming till 5pm.
It was 4:25. Fine. I told Mom I wanted to at least do a quick look at the Botanic Garden.
She was with me, since she’s got the greenest thumb of anyone I know. We headed toward the front door, only to discover that you had to go in the west doors, and we ended up walking the wrong way around. We did a very fast trip through, and it was spectacular. We agreed that if we’d gone here first, we’d have never seen anything else!
US Botanic Garden
Photos from Keith Stanley
From jungle to desert to every climate in between. The plants and the beauty of this place are beyond description!
We made a quick circuit and headed back to the corner. The bus was waiting, and we quickly got on and found our seats. We pulled out at 4:50pm (I checked.) and headed home.
The funniest part of the trip was the bus driver pointing out the White House (which we couldn’t really see clearly, being on the wrong street) and having 40 people boo and hiss!
The not-funny part was spending some 2 hours circling between Baltimore and DC after being detoured for an accident. I’d fallen asleep shortly after we passed the White House, and was greeted by the full moon upon waking. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that Mom and I were on the left side of the bus. The moon should have been on the right!
I looked around and said, “Why are we going south?” After a bit of driving, I realized we were in Timonium (and how we got there is anyone’s guess) and I told Mom I could get us home from there. We’d only been driven that route twice a year to the HamFests when I was working for them. Eventually we found the right route and were actually headed home.
By now, it was almost 8 and I was hungry – and out of the snacks and water and juice I’d brought along. Vinny, who sponsored the trip, had asked earlier if people wanted to stop for dinner but I think most of us didn’t hear what he said, as I only saw a few hands raised.
Finally it was announced that we were stopping (over the howls of two very large women) because Vinny hadn’t eaten, and as a diabetic, he simply had to have food. We stopped first at a Denny’s but they didn’t want us, as they only had one cook on duty, so we ended up at an Old Country Buffet. Yummy!
Mom and I were near the end of the line, and as we got to the cashier with our money, Vinny told us to put it away. His treat. We were all flabbergasted. It’s one thing to pay for 40 people to have a quick bite at McDonald’s, but it’s a whole other to pay for 40 people to eat at OCB during the dinner hours. We’re talking about $11 a person!!
The two ladies who didn’t want to stop stayed on the bus, and tough toots to them! They’d have heaved their fat butts off it in a New York minute if they’d known Vinny was paying. More than once, the rest of us tried convincing Vinny to take our money, but he wasn’t interested.
It was a great meal, and the OCB staff was great too.
Soon we were back on the bus, listening to the two fussbudgets complain, and finally got back to Sunbury around 10:30 pm. Mom and I headed back to the EconoLodge, because I was just too tired to drive. We even got the same room as the night before, and were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
The next morning we had breakfast and headed home.
And thus ends the story.
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