Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"O! Say can you see"

Perhaps the most amazing thing I saw here is the Star Spangled Banner...the actual flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would become our National Anthem. This exhibit is one in which you can't take pictures, so the pictures below are taken from the exhibit's blog. I can't accurately describe the feeling I had here.

As you enter the exhibit, the outside wall is filled with information about Francis Scott Key and the events leading up to that fateful battle. Then as you round the exhibit you see on your left a glass room, with this giant flag laid out. Behind the flag, on the wall, are projected the words to the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner. Seeing those words behind the actual banner talked about in them filled me with a sense of patriotism that is beyond explanation. As much as I loved my Lincoln Day, I would recommend this exhibit to anyone going to D.C.

I love singing the National Anthem, but I actually really prefer the fourth verse of the song. I'll leave you with those lyrics:

Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust"
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

"We the people"

All of the most incredible things we saw today were in areas where pictures aren't allowed. So the pictures you'll see are taken from other sources; I didn't break the rules :)

We started off the day at the National Archives. We tried to reserve tickets online, but there were none available. So we were pretty nervous about what the lines were going to look like. When we got to the Archives, the line was pretty long, but since it was moving quickly we thought we'd be fine. The biggest concern we had was Samantha. Sitting too long without moving in the 100-degree sun they have here can be a bit much. We were in before too long, and moved through security quicky.

We were waiting right off the elevators because the crowd waiting for the rotunda was huge when an Archives worker walked up to Ashley and said, "Have you already been to the rotunda?" Ashley said, "No, that's what we're waiting for." And the worker asked, "Would you like me to take you in a back entrance so you don't have to deal with any more stairs?" Oh the perks of having a baby in a stroller...She walked us right up and in this gate that led directly into the rotunda where the Charters of Freedom are displayed. We didn't have to wait in line at all (and it was a line that probably would have taken us an hour to wait through). It was AWESOME. So I got to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Then I went to the gift shop where I spent as much money as I've spent the rest of my trip here :) Oh well. It was worth it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Now he belongs to the ages..."

If you know me at all, you know that I am totally enamored with Abraham Lincoln. When Ashley asked me what I wanted to do while I was in D.C. I said, "I want to see the Lincoln Monument. Beyond that, I'm okay seeing as much or as little as you want." And I meant that seriously. That's why this was such an incredible day. Yes, I got to see the Lincoln Monument, which I'll talk about in a bit, but it was so much more than that. We started off the day at Ford's Theater, and I felt like my entire day was focused on the legacy on Lincoln. It was reflective, very personal, and again--one of the most memorable days of my life.

I'm only going to explain a few pictures. The rest should be self-explanatory.

This is the actual clothing Lincoln was wearing when he was shot.

This pillow, although blurry, has blood stains from where Lincoln's head rested on it.

The gun with which Lincoln was shot.

The theatre box John Wilkes Booth entered to assassinate our 16th president. The picture in front is the actual picture of George Washington that was placed outside the box to designate it ready for Lincoln's arrival. The Park Ranger explained that in the 19th Century, when people didn't have a Presidential Seal to use, they'd put out a picture of Washington.

It was surreal to be there, thinking about what happened that fateful night of April 14, 1865. Looking at the theatre box, you could perfectly imagine the events of that night. It gave me the chills and made me cry. More than anything, it really allowed me to feel connected to my historical hero.

That feeling of connection only grew as we ventured out to the Lincoln Monument

I know this isn't the best picture, but it was the first glimpse I caught of the monument. Again, it started the tears flowing.

I couldn't help but find the center line in
this picture amazingly ironic :
"The world will little note nor long remember what we say here..."
(a portion of the Gettysburg Address,
which is now engraved in stone)

What an incredible day. And right as I walked away from taking this picture, I saw fireflies between the trees :) It was wonderful.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"When in the course of human events..."

Happy 4th of July!

I honestly love this holiday. I love it for so many reasons: the unlikely history of the nation's birth, the chance to reaffirm your patriotism, time spent with family, traditions. All of it lends itself to creating the highlight of my summer each year. But where better to spend Independence Day than right in the nation's capital? Maybe Philadelphia, which I plan to do someday, but I'm not convinced that even there could top the experience of July 4th in Washington, D.C.

I convinced Ashley and Nic to take me to the fireworks at the National Mall. We had a chill day, going to church and then just relaxing at the apartment. At about 5pm, we headed out. Ashley made a mistake by handing me the camera and telling me to take pictures of anything I wanted.

The first few pictures just catalogued our walk downtown...

At one point Ashley told Nic to push the stroller and ran out into the street. I had no idea what she was doing until she pulled me out with her and pointed straight ahead. It was my first glimpse of the White House and I almost cried.
There were more law enforcement vehicles out than I have ever seen. The coolest ones were these armored cars. They had the back doors open and what looked like secret service agents, all in black, sitting in the back.

The Executive Office Building, under construction, but awesomely decorated for the Fourth:

The street where EVERYTHING is...

When we got to the National Mall, there was a fence set up so we all had to enter through a security gate. When we got over by the Washington Monument, the Navy Band was performing. They sounded so awesome!

My beautiful niece, just watching everything going on around her.

The Washington Monument is so iconic. I love that you can see it from almost anywhere you are. It serves as a constant reminder of the city you're in.

From the Mall, we could see the South side of the White House. We found out after the fact that the President had a big celebration for some military troops and their families.

Samantha and me, waiting for fireworks to start. It was so special spending the holiday with her.

We enjoyed the most incredible firework show ever. I have honestly never seen anything like it.

After the fireworks, we all signed a giant Christmas card for the troops.

It was a long day for Samantha...

The park in front of the White House was closed off before the fireworks, but on our walk home we saw that they had opened up the street in front, so we went by to take pictures. So neat to stand that close and think of all the amazing men and their families that have lived there.

In short, I'd say it was one of the most memorable days of my life.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


For years, when asked where I would go if I could go anywhere in the world, my answer was Washington, D.C. Now I'm finally here. Because Nic has an internship here for the summer, he snatched my sister and niece away from us for a few months. I've been missing them like crazy, and I had a tax return burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided I couldn't think of a better way to spend that money than a visit to my sister while at the same time touring the city I've been dying to see for as long as I can remember.

I guess I should preface this. I have been to D.C. before, but I was about 9 or 10 years old. We spent like one day in the city, and we didn't see much.

I can already tell you that this trip has been everything I expected it to be. It honestly has been so great to see Ashley, Nic, and Sam. It makes it even more incredible that we can share these wonderful memories. Watch for pictures coming soon. Lots of pictures:)