NHS Trip To DC: “Unforgettable”
By Dana duChemin
Last year about this time, my class learned about an opportunity to go to Washington DC for the inauguration and much more. My initial thought was I wanted to go, but I didn't know if I would come up with the money to make it happen. After looking at the plan of what we would do, I made my decision that I would find a way to go. Little did I know that being able to see the monuments and other events in the city was going to be worth my money and more.
Leaving Wednesday night, I was so ready to see all that the city had in store. I had been to D.C. a couple of times before, but I knew this was...
... a once in a lifetime visit. Not only do I get to witness the inauguration, but also the protests and passions on both sides of the spectrum.
Our first day was filled with museums and monuments. I chose to visit the Holocaust museum and The Museum of Natural History. The Holocaust museum was a very humbling encounter. Seeing all that went on and realizing it really wasn't that long ago was what made it such a vivid experience. Even all my classmates that seem like they never can stay quiet for more than ten seconds took this tour very seriously and to heart.
Visiting the other museum later lightened the mood and we were able to have fun and joke around and enjoy the different animals and exhibits. After that we visited the World War 2 monument. It was powerful to stand in the middle and see all the states and districts circled around and feel the unity within country during this war.
Our next plan was to go visit the Lincoln but with the celebration taking place, we were not able to get close. On the bright side of this, we were able to listen to the music that was playing and see all the people collected around showing their American pride. When "America" was sang I instantly realized that it was the same as the one on one of my all time favorite movies, “Sandlot”, and hearing everyone singing along and putting their hands on their heart shows that despite what is going on, we are still a country and have to stay united and keep America beautiful.
The next day we were going to the inauguration. I was one of the 20 that were able to stand in the red standing area which was a little closer than what we could have been. Even before the ceremony started, you could feel the passion and excitement for a new president. During speeches by others, you could hear people shouting their approval, their praise and their pride for what they were hearing.
I remember it started to sprinkle just a little bit before our president was inaugurated. Once Billy Graham came on, he mentioned how rain was a sign of blessing, and how once our president came up to the platform, it had indeed started to rain. After this statement, many praises and amen’s were shouted. That moment really stood out to me.
Once everything was said and done, we heard cannons go off.
I’m not going to lie, that scared almost all of us for a few seconds. All our eyes bulged as we thought at first they were bombs or something of the sort since that situation was one that was drilled into our heads as something that could really happen.
A little while after, we heard news of what started as a protest that later turned into a riot. We were not near enough to witness it because we were on the opposite side of the city, but it was an event that will also be remembered. Not witnessing this first hand was something I was okay with since tear gas and broken windows became part of the result.
The next day was filled with other types of passion. We were not able to witness the actual women's march but we definitely witnessed some of it at the metro station. We were at a stop and the whole station was filled with people going to the march. There was not a space in view that could be open where someone was not standing. Being able to witness the before part of this march and being in the area is also something that can be considered once in a lifetime. While the actual march was going on, our group visited Arlington cemetery. This was another area where being quiet and respectful was polite. One of my favorite parts was actually just standing on the highest hill and looking out at the city. I was hoping to see the women's march, but it hadn't started yet. I was able to see the tops of all the major building and monuments.
Something about being able to see everything from above made the scenery more special. It could be because I like heights, but the moment did stand out to me. We also were able to witness the changing of the guards. We had to wait about half an hour before the next time they switched. While waiting, we watched as the guard performed his duty, walking and protecting this tomb. While we were watching and feeling cold, it hit us that they do this all the time, no matter the weather. Even through the worst storms, they performed their jobs.
Later that evening, we went back to the main city to hopefully get to see the Lincoln memorial and the White House. Some people just wanted to leave since we were running behind schedule, but I wasn't going to leave without seeing these places. It still made me upset that we couldn't see them in the daylight so I could get better pictures. On our way there, we saw the aftermath of the march. Every fence and most streets were lined with posters that these people carried. It was interesting to see how these people had this side of passion as well. I debated keeping one of the posters for the heck of it, but most contained not so nice words so I decided a picture would do.
After getting to our destination and seeing all the lights lighting up these memorials and buildings, I realized how special it actually was to see them at night. Walking in the dark and seeing the lights lining the reflecting pool, from Washington Monument to the Lincoln memorial, was something that I had never seen or experienced. While taking these final pictures, it finally hit me that all that I had experienced were unforgettable memories I will have forever.
Dana duChemin is a junior at Newaygo High School. She is a three sport athlete competing in volleyball, basketball and softball. In her spare time, she likes to volunteer at her church, photograph sporting events and practice volleyball. She hopes to play volleyball in college and earn a teaching degree in math education.