Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Washington DC Trip - Day 5 and 6 (the last day)

Home now - Robert's at school; he struggled a little to get up, but did a good job getting around and packing up his backpack for school. We did arrive back at the school about on time - close to the scheduled 1:10am - not bad for a little maintainance issue prior to taking off from Dallas. But all are home safe and sound.

This post will be about the last two days of the amazing 8th grade trip to Washington DC - (note: if you have just arrived at my blog - you can find the earlier days (Days 1, 2 and 3-4) if you scroll down further).

Day 5 - Sunday, April 18, 2010
Early wake up call, breakfast and board the bus (the standard routine of activites that allow us to get a good start to our day and on the bus by 8:15-8:30am). The day started out a little chillier than we had experienced earlier in the trip, but all seemed prepared for the day by wearing warmer clothing and bringing nicer attire for our visit to Arlington Cemetery later in the day.

First stop brought us to Iwo Jima. During the bus ride there we learned about the 6 men (5 Marines and 1 Army Corp) who were the inspiration for this memorial.

Along the base of the memorial, there is a list of all the battles/wars fought and the dates. Robert pointed out right away that there was no mention of the "Civil War" as it was noted as the "War Between the States".  The monument took 7 years to sculpt and it is based on the 2nd raising of the flag (we did learn about the story of the 2 flag raisings at Iwo Jima during the tour).

(side note...yes, I was on the trip with my son; it just took a few days for him to "allow" me to get a photo with him :) )

Next, it was time to visit the Obamas - thought we would stop by for Sunday brunch...or at least get an opportunity to learn about Layfette Park and the White House. Layfette Park is located outside the White House area and is surrounded by many historical houses, which was restored during the time the Kennedy's were in office. Now they are currently offices.

In the park there is a statue of Andrew Jackson (photo below) and another of Baron Von Stuben (who George Washington brought in to whoop the British).
As we made our way through and around Layfette Park, we finally got a chance to look at the White House and take photos. It is a very impressive looking house.

Before leaving the White House, there was ample time for photo opportunities.
First up was the group (kids & teachers)
Next...teachers, tour guide and chaperons...
And then I got "lucky" again, for here is another photo of Robert and I in front of the White House.

We left the White House and headed to Ford Theater (the theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated). When you enter into the theature, you first go downstairs to the museum which tells all about Lincolns life and the times he lived. When directed, we filed into the theater to hear one of the park rangers tell us the story of the night Lincoln was assassinated. It was the end of the Civil War - a joyous time - and everyone in Washington DC was celebrating nightly. The Lincolns, who enjoyed going to the theater, decided to go the night of April 14 to see the play "Our American Cousin". Ford, the theater own, heard that the President was going to attend the play, so he decided to make it a special event by dressing up the box - to make it look Presidental.
He had the partician removed (making the box in to one room), added flags, a photo of George Washington and special seats (the love seat in the box today is the original one). Well, I am sure that most of you know the outcome of that evening, so I will not bore you with what we all learned - but the presentation of that night by the ranger was very informative. He was so animated that he really drew the audience in.

We left Ford Theater and headed to the Old Post Office Pavillion for lunch before we made our way to the Holocaust Museum. Now if you haven't been to the Holocaust Museum, I (and I believe that all the kids) would recommend going if you go to Washington DC. It is very moving...very haunting...very distrubing. Upon entering the museum, you are given a passport...an identity card of someone who was there. It might be a women, it might be a man...it might be someone who was in one of the concentration camps and made it out...or might have died. Throughout your travels in the museum, you read their story and come to know the war through their experience. After 2 hours, we all met in the lobby - all of us emotionally drained. It had effected all of us and the kids in a very profound way. Tear were shed...anger was felt. The group I walked with, asked questions and raised arguements ("why did they believe Hitler", "why didn't someone stop him sooner?"). All good questions!

From there we headed out, boarding the bus where it was a quiet drive to our next stop -
 Arlington national Cemetery.

We walked all around the cemetery learning about who was buried here and how one earned their right to be buried here in this special place...there are over 330,000 honorable people buried here. As we continued to walk to the heart of the cemetary - to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Before we went to the actual site, we got an opportunity to sit for a bit and listen to our tour guide explain what we were going to see and experience. On the other side of this auditorium was the tomb, where at 6pm (15 minutes from the time we sat at the auditorium) the changing of the guards was going to take place and then we were going to participate in a wreath laying ceremony.

First, the changing of the guards...

Twenty-four hours a day...seven days a week...through rain, snow, sleet; during night and day - the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded. Each guard takes 21 steps, turns & pauses 21 seconds and then proceeds to walk the other way taking those 21 steps turning and pausing 21 seconds. When it is time for the guard to change, there is a formal ceremony which we witnessed:

Once the Changing of the Guards was complete, it was time for the wreath-laying ceremony. Four of the kids were chosen from the group, based on an essay they wrote telling what it would mean to them to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...Robert was one of the kids chosen (a mother couldn't have been more proud). First, the 4 kids has to be inspected by the Sargent before allowing to lay the wreath; they they followed him down to the Tomb where they were presented with the school wreath to be layed. When the wreath was placed on the stand, taps was blown.

When the ceremony was complete, the kids were lead back up the steps by the Sargent. He acknowledged their participating with a handshake and gratitude. It was a really wonderful event and, not only did our four representatives do a wonderful job laying the wreath, but the remaining 26 in the audience were very well behaved :).
We walked our way back through the cementery to where our bus was waiting for us. We boarded and made our way to dinner at Buca de Beppo (family style Italian salad, fresh warm bread, chicken parmesan, speghetti and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert). What a nice way to replunish one's self - a nice warm meal and good company...for it was an emotional afternoon between the Holocaust Museum and the wreath laying at Arlington. However, our day wasn't quite done as we ended the evening with a trip to the
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Another great day comes to an end as we load up the bus and head to the hotel; where messages of packing up and taking a little time before "lights out" to work on some more homework. Tomorrow would be an early wake up call, earlier than the previous days, as we were going to the capital for a tour.

Day 6 - Monday, April 19, 2010...the last day of the trip

The wake up call came at 6am and everyone was instructed to be at breakfast around 6:45am with their packed suitcase. Today we were going to take a tour of the Capitol building and, due to the popularity of this tour, it was important to be there early to get a good spot in line.
Well our timing couldn't have been better as we were the first (school) group in line and only about 10 other people were in line before us. We were able to get into the building around 9am, giving us plenty of time to visit the Capital museum and the gift shop before starting the tour. The first part of the tour was a movie before going through 3 different parts of the Capitol building

Room 1 - the Crypt: this was were Washington was suppose to have been buried, but was buried on the grounds of Mount Vernon as we learn several days back.

Room 2 - The Rotunda - the core of the Capitol. Above us was the dome, below the top of the dome was a band showing over 400 years of history and below that were paintings. Around the room were statues - each state is represented throughout the Capitol by 1-2 statues...one of Californias was a statue of Ronald Reagan.

Room 3 - the Old Hall of the House or also referred to as the Echo Room

After finishing up the tour of the Capitol we walked back to the bus and boarded so that we could head off to the National Air and Space Museum, where we had lunch as well as had time to look through the museum.

This was my group I was responsible for...my son, Robert is on the left and these are his friends & roommates during the trip. It was a great group of boys!

After the Air & Space Museum, we has some time to enjoy the National Museum of Natural History before boarding the bus on last time as we headed to the airport. All of us couldn't believe that this trip came to an end so quickly. The 30 kids who had the privilege of coming to DC were wonderful - well behaved and respectful. They were full of intellegent questions throughout and just soaked up the atmosphere and the information given. Aside from the education aspect of the trip, special friendships were made as they are all part of this wonderful experience.
I am so grateful that I was able to go and be a part of it all.

From the 8th grade class, teachers and chaperons...thank you for taking interest in our trip!
Take care!


valerie said...

Thanks for sharing your trip with us! The photos are amazing. I've never been to DC so I really enjoyed reading about your travels and site-seeing. Glad you all had a great time.

Siobhan said...

Great pictures! I am glad you all had a good time. :)

Mich said...

Thank you that you have shared all these beautiful pictures with us. I have never been to Washington but it is high on my list of things I still want to see, so it was a real pleasure to see these pictures.