I stood on the hexagonal tiles of the Eisenhower Avenue Metro stop, glancing at the sky, waiting for the train to speed by. On both sides of the track were covered walkways, but the sky opened up directly above the track. The grand George Washington National Masonic Memorial loomed in the sky above my parents and me, foreshadowing the awe-inspiring and historically significant monuments we were to see on our Washington, D.C., trip. We were only there for three days, from the first of July to the third, so our schedule was bursting with sights to see.
Presently, the Metro train approached from down the track and ground to a halt. This subway-like train above ground fascinated me, a boy from a small town. The Metro map looked complicated, like colored spaghetti tangled together, but we found traveling aboard the metro to be much more convenient than renting a car would have been.
We transferred to the blue line and headed toward Arlington National Cemetery. As we passed through tunnels, I reflected on my day. I still felt numb realizing I had taken a tour through the White House that day. It was surreal knowing I had walked through the same halls that Abraham Lincoln and James Madison had walked. However, though we saw some interesting things, not too much of the building was open. Plus, cameras were not permitted, so we had to leave our camera in the hotel room. That meant we did not have a camera with us when we saw the President leaving the White House in Marine One.
When we arrived at Arlington, we stared at the countless graves encompassing us. As far as the eye could see stood pure white gravestones. The air was still and peaceful. Restful. Each one of these graves bore a name–names of Americans who cared for their country enough to risk their lives for me. I was overcome with admiration for these men and women. The spell of Arlington grew stronger as I viewed the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The scene was stunning–the large rectangular tomb, the view behind it that seemed to stretch forever, and the temple-like Memorial Amphitheater behind us. The guards, dressed immaculately, moved with such precision. It was truly awe-inspiringl to witness their dedication to a soldier they had never met.
Staying in Alexandria was convenient because it was close to the city, and our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriot Alexandria, would transport us to the Metro station further down Eisenhower Avenue. We toured the city the next two days through DC Tours on a bright red, double-decker bus. D.C. in July was hot; however, as the bus moved along, I enjoyed the cool air on my face. Riding on top of the bus made me feel like I was in the heart of the city.
We had been one of the few groups that our congressman had been able to secure a Capitol tour. The best experience in the Capitol was walking onto a balcony in the House of Representatives. It helped open my eyes to the political world, encouraged me to become informed so I can eventually make an educated vote.
The next day, I stood in the clock tower of the Old Post House Pavilion. From D.C.’s second highest view, the city continued forever. I could see the Washington Monument, the grand National Cathedral, and many other stops we had made. This city is where everything happens in our country, I thought. And I could see it all.
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