The first time I visited Washington, DC, I was 16 years old. It was my high school senior trip in 1960, the spring before my graduation in January of 1961. Seniors from my school, the High School of Commerce, combined with Cass Tech, the school across the street, to make this milestone excursion. We boarded chartered buses in Detroit and descended upon the nation’s capital at cherry blossom time.
When I began to write, I realized I don’t remember much about our time in Washington, DC. I do recall a tour of the Capitol and a group photo on its steps, but that’s all. For the record, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States, and Richard Nixon was the Vice-President. Bakersfield’s Earl Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
In later years, after moving to California, I would visit Washington, DC again. Now, more tuned in to the historical significance of the place, I relished seeing some of the sights: the monuments on the National Mall, the J Edgar Hoover FBI building; the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where U.S. paper currency is designed and printed; Ford’s Theater, the scene of Lincoln’s assassination.
Ford’s Theatre is a National Historic Park, complete with rangers that oversee the place and present the history of the theater and the assassination. Stories we had read and heard came to life as the ranger showed us President and Mrs. Lincoln’s theater box and how John Wilkes Booth jumped over the rail and onto the stage, breaking his leg as he landed.
Being there took me back, as if I were a part of history. The story of what happened to Booth afterward was new to me, and I soaked up the images of Booth on the run and ending up at Dr. Samuel Mudd’s house seeking medical attention.
After the ranger’s talk, we were free to explore the museum on the lower level. From my spot on the stairs, I could hear a familiar voice below. Imagine my surprise to find a Bakersfield friend who was also vacationing in Washington, DC. Small world, indeed.
From there, we proceeded across the street to the home where the mortally-wounded Lincoln was taken. We peeked into the bedroom, seeing the too-short bed and the bloodied pillow where he lay. It was sobering.
The last several decades have brought many changes and new attractions to learn from and to appreciate. I want to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Smithsonian Institute, the US Holocaust Memorial, the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial.
|Viet Nam Veterans Memorial|
Regardless of the mixed critical reviews, I want to visit the Newseum, which is an interactive museum of journalism and news. And, a definite attraction is the several Women’s History Museums.
|Newseum, Washington, DC|
I’m going to have to spend some serious time in Washington, DC.
~ xoA ~