Washington, DC - My Family Travels

Quarter Finalist 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
One week, no parents, and halfway across the country; what’s not to love? The summer between my eighth and ninth grade years, a trip was offered that took almost 150 of us to Washington, DC.

One week, no parents, and halfway across the country; what’s not to love? The summer between my eighth and ninth grade years, a trip was offered that took almost 150 of us to Washington, DC. All the cool kids were going, so I just had to go. When I first begged my parents to let me go, I only pretended to be interested in the amazing educational opportunity before me. Yet, once I got there, I was completely stunned by how rich and interesting our country’s history is. I was excited all over again, but for a different reason. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We visited the Ford Theater, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Iwo Jima memorial, Williamsburg, and Jamestown. I couldn’t believe it – I was walking the same streets that our Founding Fathers had walked so many years ago! It was exciting and humbling at the same time. Here I was, just an eighth grader with no voice, standing in the presence of the people who made decisions that would affect our nation forever. One place that really caught my attention was the Vietnam War Memorial. The black wall with the names of soldiers who lost their lives seemed to go on forever. All those men and women gave up their lives for their country, the same country that I freely live in today. On that day, it really struck me that these people were the ones I owed so much. If they hadn’t fought so diligently, my life wouldn’t be the same. Who knows what would’ve happened to our country if any wars we fought had ended differently. Instead of a leading world power, the USA could be a poor, struggling nation. Even though it was heartbreaking to see all the names of those who died fighting, it made me very proud of these soldiers and our country as well. The next day, my group visited the Holocaust Museum. Like everyone else, we had to pass through security and have our bags checked by a guard. None of us thought anything of it. The museum itself was spectacular, especially in the way it presented the heartbreaking tale of the Holocaust victims. I learned a lot from it, and as a student I definitely appreciated it. Fast forward a day, and we’re on the bus to Busch Gardens. Everyone is excited and pumped for the amusement park, myself included. Then I got a phone call from my mom, asking if we were all okay. I could hear other kids on the bus answering their phones as well, with frantic parents on the other side. My mom asked if we were at the Holocaust Museum, and I told her no, that we had gone yesterday. I could hear the relief in her voice when I said that. She proceeded to tell me that there had been a shooting at the museum, and someone had died. She didn’t know who yet, but she was mainly concerned that I was okay. After I assured her that we were, she got off the phone. Just by the expressions on my friends faces, I knew that their phone calls closely matched mine. The guard that died that day was the same one who had laughed with us the day before while checking our bags. The bus became quiet and respectful as our chaperones confirmed the news. It could have easily been us in the building that day, and once again I was proud. I was proud of the guard, the soldiers, and this trip made me proud to be an American.

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