Last year my family and I went on vacation to Washington D.C. For some, this may not sound interesting; when you think of D.C, you don't exactly picture theme parks or ski slopes. You think museums and monuments, but for good reason; it is exactly that. And yet D.C., almost like Disney World, has something about it, something captivating; some presence, some atmosphere that absolutely compels you.
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It is a beautiful place. The monuments are huge. You always see pictures of the monuments, but when you are there, when you stand in their shadows, when they loom over you, it takes your breath away. I vividly remember the first day we were there. We got off the subway, went outside, rounded a corner and we were suddenly halted by the Washington Monument stretching to the sky in front of us. Standing in the presence of something like that rocks your world. It isn't just a tower, its meaning, its power, is awe-inspiring. I couldn't help laughing out loud. Some might have thought me a crazy person, standing in the street laughing, but in a moment like that, you couldn’t care less what others think. There were several moments like that, one right after the other it seemed. There was so much to see, and in a week we didn't see it all. In a lifetime you may not see it all.
Naturally, we visited the Smithsonian Museums, which were gigantic; once you thought you had seen the last exhibit, a whole new floor would appear. The museums had everything you could imagine, from the original Kermit the Frog puppet, to Abraham Lincoln's hat. The power in objects and artifacts is absolutely amazing. Some things would make you laugh, and some would make you want to cry. We were walking through one of the museums and found ourselves suddenly staring at an actual piece of the support structure of one of the Twin Towers. It was a simple metal piece of framework, but none spoke as they passed by.
We went all over the place, taking in as much as we could, and by the end of each day we were exhausted. We walked a lot, my feet ached continuously, but it was so worth it. We couldn't slow down; we didn't want to miss a thing.
On our last night in D.C. we went to visit the Iwo Jima Memorial. It is kind of secluded, back in the trees on a hill looking across the city. There, you are away from the lights and crowds. I remember walking off by myself and coming to a place on the hill where you could see all the monuments of the city, lining up, standing tall, brightly illuminated, like beacons in the dark. It was such a powerful sight, you feel so proud of your country there. A sight like that puts a fire inside you; a will to stand for your country and do whatever you can to protect it. Then and there you feel ready to take a bullet for her, like so many before you. On that hill, looking over your country, you understand the powerful words of Nathan Hale, "My only regret is that I have but one life to lose for my country."
You gain a new respect for this country in D.C.; whether on that hill or in a museum, you have a love for this nation. It draws you in, and when the trip is over you only wish you had more time to spend there, in the very heart of our country.
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