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Our final full day in D.C. was the most somber of the week. We began with a subway ride to Arlington National Cemetery. The expanse of the acreage itself is amazing. It’s made up of neat rows of tombstones as far as the eye can see.

The tour guide on the tram ride told us that they average about twenty-five funerals a day. Just as soon as she said it, we saw a family leaving a graveside. It felt strange to watch this family mourning the loss of a loved one while we rode past them—like The Pirates of the Caribbean if Disney World built a cemetery (I’d call it Disney After-World.). The tram stopped at the JFK Memorial where President Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy, their infant son, and stillborn daughter are buried—so sad. It made being the Kennedys seem not so glamorous after all.

Next we watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In a time when we aren’t respectful very often about much of anything, it was moving to be in a group of people that large who were completely silent. You could hear every click of the soldier’s footsteps.

There were about sixty firefighters in the first two rows of the crowd. The presiding soldier eventually announced that they were going to be laying a wreath to honor fallen firefighters. They were dressed in their fanciest uniforms. Some even had kilts and tall furry hats. The patches on their arms denoted their home states. A widow was there to represent the families of firefighters killed on duty.

We took a quick tour of the Lee mansion (Did you know that the original land for the cemetery was owned by the family of Robert E. Lee?) but there wasn’t much to see in the house itself. It’s being renovated. There is a great view from the back of the mansion.

We headed back to town to walk around the Washington Monument (We couldn’t go in it because of the earthquake a few years ago.).

Then we went to find lunch in a section with lots of food trucks…lots of food trucks and ravenous pigeons, that is. After lunch, we went to the starkly minimal Vietnam Memorial and the inspiring and impressive World War II Memorial.

That evening we ate supper at the home of one of my oldest and dearest friends. She and her husband and their three adorable sons live in Maryland not far from D.C. It was such a treat to hang out with her and her family. She was with me the first time I went to D.C. some twenty-three years ago. We went with our eighth grade class. I don’t remember a lot about the trip—or I don’t remember a lot about learning much American history on the trip. One of the few things I do remember is watching my friend click her heels on the steps of the Capitol building. That’s what happens when you’ve been on a bus too long. I’m just hoping that my kids will retain a lot more meaningful history lessons than I did on my first trip.

All in all the kids did a great. We kept the tantrums to a manageable low. We were able to see everything on our list but I’m sure we’ll be back in a few years.



Our Trip to Washington, D.C. (Day Five)

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