One month to the day after we set out on this cross-country voyage, we spent our last full day of the trip exploring our nation’s capital. I think it’s the right place to end a road trip: the place where this country is run.
Last night we talked about what we wanted to do. We saw a lot of Washington, D.C. when we were here for Maw-Maw’s funeral, so we wanted to pick some new things that we didn’t do last time. Madison mentioned the Holocaust museum, which I had heard good things about. Paw-Paw and I were interested in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and Paw-Paw also wanted to see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Three museums should be plenty to fill up a day, maybe two.
This morning we got up fairly early and caught the shuttle bus to the local metro station. From there we rode for about 15 minutes to the Smithsonian stop right on the Washington Mall. After consulting a map of the local museums, we decided to go to the American History museum first, then down to the Holocaust museum and then work our way over to the Air and Space Museum.
Right about the time we were walking up to the first museum, I remembered that it was closed in the winter for renovations. Of course, not a minute later, I saw a sign that said the museum wouldn’t be open until the Fall of 2008. I guess that took one of the museums off of our list.
We walked past the Department of Agriculture building and went across the street to the Holocaust Museum. Madison and I had heard a lot of good things about it and felt like it was something we needed to see. As we walked into the main exhibit, we were told to pick up an ID card. Inside there was information about someone who lived during the Holocaust. The idea was that as you moved from the different levels of the museum, you read what was happening to your person at that time. It personalized the museum and gave you some perspective on what was happening. My ID was of a young Polish Jew named Jakob Frenkiel.
An elevator takes you up to the fourth floor of the museum, and you work your way down to the first floor. The fourth floor is all about the Nazi rise to power and how Hitler essentially took over the country. It also talked about the Jews’ place in the world before the Holocaust. There was a ton of information, lots of artifacts and a few movies you could watch to get more information.
It’s fascinating and scary to see how Hitler energized so many people and essentially brainwashed them into following him. He gave the people so much hope and was able to connect to them so well with speeches. It scares me because this could still happen. One man can wield so much power and even get people to believe in him and support him while he kills millions of “inferior” people.
The second level of the museum was about the ghettos and concentration camps. It’s impossible to imagine what these people were living in and what they were forced to do. I also don’t know how people can willingly do this to other human beings. They had to see that what they were doing was wrong, so how could they keep doing it? I just can’t and will never be able to understand that.
This part of the museum was really tough to go through. They had graphic videos of killings and graves, they had a room where you could listen to survivors of Auschwitz talk about what happened to them there, they had a scaled model of a gas chamber. It’s hard to believe that it’s all real. Seeing and hearing the survivors talking about what they had to go through was exceptionally touching.
The museum ended on a positive note, with stories of people who helped the Jews avoid persecution and the liberations of the Nazi concentration camps. The exhibition ended at a beautiful hall of remembrance in the shape of a hexagon and had the names of the major concentration camps inscribed on each side and two rows of lit candles under the inscription. If there was any uplifting way to bring a close to this exhibit, that hall was it.
We spent four hours in that museum, so we decided just to grab a quick lunch at a hot dog stand and move on to the Air and Space museum before it closed. First, we decided to check out an IMAX movie. Paw-Paw and I had never been to one and wanted to see what it was all about. They were showing a movie call “The Sun: 3D.” We got the sweet 3D glasses. I was excited. I had never seen a 3D movie either. It would be a day of firsts.
The movie was pretty cool. NASA scientists have sent out two satellites to take pictures of the sun at the same time in order to get a 3D picture of it and be able to predict solar storms better. It was fascinating. What was even cooler was that I felt like I could reach out and touch the satellites that went flying by. It took all the restraint I could muster to keep from reaching up and grabbing at the little solar particles that were drifting just over my head. But in the end, I walked out with a headache, but I guess it was worth it.
The actual museum was pretty cool with all kinds of planes and info about space exploration. It seems that they have shifted the focus of this museum more towards space rather than air, which I think might have disappointed Paw-Paw. Overall it was good, but in regard to planes it just can’t match up to the National Air Force Museum.
The best part was the flight simulator. For a few bucks, you could get into a simulator and actually try to fly a jet fighter. Two people would go in, the pilot and the gunner. I was the pilot, Madison the gunner. Wherever you steered, the simulator tilted with you — even if you went upside-down. They had you strapped in like on a roller coaster and they forced you to take everything out of your pockets. It was intense and scary to be pulling barrel-rolls on this simulator. But with Madison and I working together, we shot down five planes, giving us “Ace” status. My headache got a lot worse.
At that point I’m pretty sure we were done with museums. We walked back to the Metro and eventually made it back to the hotel.
I’m exhausted. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this trip, but I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and not having to drive almost everyday. But I will miss the new friend we made in Washington: Harold the mouse. He decided to visit me last night when I was writing the blog. He hasn’t come out tonight, but I’m just waiting for him to scurry across my feet. Or maybe he’ll stow away in Madison’s suitcase…
Tomorrow we head home. We’ll be getting into Wilson around two p.m., which means back in Cary sometime before four. I won’t post tomorrow, but I plan on posting a summary post in the next few days just to kind of give some reflections on the trip as a whole. Look for that this weekend or early next week.
Until then, thanks for reading, commenting, enjoying or randomly stumbling upon this blog. It’s been good to write and I’m glad people have enjoyed reading it, despite my longwindedness. I plan on editing this (I never read over these posts, so I’m sure there were plenty of typos and unnecessary things), adding the things that I forgot about, smoothing the transitions to make it read more like a book and incorporating a few pictures here and there to follow the narrative. If you want a copy of it, for any strange reason, you can e-mail me and I’ll send an electronic copy to you sometime in the relatively near future (before Christmastime).
Again, thanks for riding along with us and I hope you enjoyed it! I look forward to hearing from you.