Monday, October 26, 2009

Washington D.C. - Day One

Tuesday morning (Oct. 6) we left our hotel and drove about 40 miles to Fraconia, Virginia. We parked our car in a parking garage and then caught the Metro into Washington D.C. It was all a little intimidating figuring out where we needed to be and what train to ride, but once we figured everything out, it was a quick ride into Washington. I'm so glad we didn't try to drive into the city, it would have been pretty stressful, so instead we just sat back and enjoyed our little half hour commute on the train.

We got off the metro at Arlington Cemetery where we got tickets for the tour bus. Riding the tour bus made it easy to get to the places we wanted to go and also be informed about the various sites around the city.

As the bus crossed the river we started seeing all the famous sites we'd only read about. It was so awesome to see all these magnificent buildings. Here's the Washington Monument . . . .
. . . . and the Jefferson Memorial.

We were in awe at the size of the buildings.

I had always wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, so that's where we started our tour. Seeing pictures of all these famous places doesn't really do them justice. . . they are enormous.

I'd seen this statue of Lincoln hundreds of times, but I must say it was a real thrill be be standing in front of it and to be seeing it in person.

What an awesome monument! How does anyone carve marble? And how do they get the detail and the flow of fabric? It's amazing!

Next we stopped by the Vietnam Memorial. We located the names of two of our high school classmates who had been killed in Vietnam. Both of these boys were so young when they were drafted and sent to Vietnam, just like so many others who have served in our nations wars. But knowing them and seeing their names there on the wall was a sobering experience. To see all those names listed, and then to imagine how every family suffered when they were notified of the death of their son or daughter, it was so sad. Listing the names instead of just the numbers of the dead makes it so much more personal.

The wind was blowing pretty briskly most of the day . . it made the flags around the monument stand out so pretty against the blue sky.

Looking up at the Washington Monument almost made you dizzy, it's so tall and such an awesome structure. And it's not just a quick walk from one site to another. The Mall is so huge, it takes a least a half hour to walk from one site to another. We wanted to ride to the top of the monument but the tickets were all gone for Tuesday so we got tickets for Wednesday morning.

Here's a little information about the Washington Monument. It's 555 feet high. The cornerstone was laid in 1848 in a ceremony attended by President James Polk, and other dignitaries, namely Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson. Construction ground to a halt after it was only 156 feet tall because of lack of funding and stood unfinished for many years. Finally, President Ulysses S. Grant authorized the federal government to complete the project and so the Army Corp of Engineers completed it in 1885, 37 years after it began. It's now open every day except Christmas.

Randy is taking a little break after we walked around the Capitol. We did a lot of walking so it was kind of nice to sit down occasionally and just take in the sights.

This view is from the Capitol looking back down towards the Washington Monument. You can see it's quite a distance.
The steps of the Capitol were closed off so you couldn't go up them, but I'm not sure we would have walked up them if we could--that's a lot of steps.
We spent the last couple hours of the day at the Arlington Cemetery. It's quite a site to see all those white headstones laid out so exactly- - thousands and thousands of them.

This is the Memorial Amphitheater. It's the site of all the Memorial Day services that are held here each year. It's a beautiful grey marble structure.

Adjacent to the Memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is probably the best known memorial to those who have died in service to our country. The afternoon we were there, these veterans in red shirts had traveled from somewhere in the Midwest to see the monument and to have the honor of participating in placing of a wreath on the tomb. It was pretty touching to see all these men who had fought in the World War II, many of them in wheelchairs, be able to come here and take part in such a special ceremony.
A sentinel of the Third U.S. Infantry maintains vigil around the clock at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He paces 21 steps alongside the tomb, pauses 21 seconds, then returns. The changing of the guard takes place on the hour. "Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known only to God" is the inscription on the sarcophagus of the World War I soldier entombed here in 1921. Since that time, others servicemen have joined their comrade. Unknown servicemen from WWII, Korean, and Vietnam have also been entombed here. It was an awesome and reverent sight to see this ceremony. We were so glad we closed our day at Arlington. It's a very special place and we felt honored to have been there.

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