A memorable trip to Washington

I believe that I will never forget the sound of Washington D.C. on the Friday afternoon prior to inaugural Saturday. The day was dreary and overcast, and this seemed to actually add to the atmosphere. The sounds of sirens escorting stretch limousines reverberated off magnificent buildings that held centuries-old memories of similar occasions in the past. One after the other, limousines black and white alike, pulled up to the Willard Hotel, the place where “the important people” would stay. There was a frenzy of activity, and we stayed and watched for several minutes. My son Ty and I stood at the Capitol building as the workers set up for the momentous event. I imagined what it would be like to actually be present on the platform when the oath of office is administered, feeling a little envious of those who would, while at the same time being glad that I am an “unrecognizable nobody.” Many others must have felt the same way or had similar thoughts because we all walked around in respectful silence. The week had been filled with educational and informative visits to the Smithsonian, meditative walks through the memorials and Arlington Cemetery, awe-inspiring moments at Iwo Jima, and excitement at Capitol Hill as we sat in on the Ashcroft hearings. We later met and talked to Senator Bob Dole as he and Casey Martin, the handicapped golfer, left the Supreme Court. The Lincoln assassination came alive in Ford’s Theater; Mount Vernon’s majesty reflected the strength and character of Washington; Kennedy Center boasted moments of culture; and the Holocaust Museum left one different than when one entered. On a lighter note, there were also fun times at ESPN Zone, Joe Theissman’s Restaurant, and Pentagon City Mall. We were interviewed by French TV and a San Antonio TV station, as well as appearing briefly although unintentionally on ESPN Sports Center. Opening ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday initiated the inaugural festivities. Thousands poured into the mall area to welcome President-Elect and Mrs. Bush to their new home. Bands from each branch of the service played their respective marches. Parachutists emitting red-colored smoke and bearing huge American flags drew “oohs and aahs” from the crowd as they jumped from airplanes down into the Memorial area. A high school girl from Louisiana sang “Amazing Grace,” and Sandi Patti, the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Later, Ricky Martin would appear. The mood was joyful, and the president-elect must have felt the warmth of the welcome. I have posters on my classroom walls of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the first prayer in Congress, and the first Thanksgiving Day. Until now, they were just posters with nice American ideology. But now I have walked where they walked, touched some of the same things they touched, and felt some of the same things they must have felt. I suspect it will take me quite some time to truly absorb everything I experienced. While I believe that I have always held my country in great respect, I did not have the perspective that I do now. I realize that not everyone loves our new president. That fact was magnified by the tight security in the city that week. But as I stood on Pennsylvania Avenue that cold, rainy, inaugural Saturday and watched him go by in USA 1, I experienced renewed hope that as a nation we are indeed the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” a people as “one nation under God” and that our leader would likely take that very seriously.

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