Wear comfortable shoes is good advice
Published 9:19 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Washington D.C. in a day and I survived. I had my doubts I would make it, especially when I was walking up the hills of Arlington National Cemetery.
I was the guest Monday of the Cassopolis Adult/Alternative Education. Graduates, students and staff went by bus to Detroit, spending the night only to wake at 4 a.m. for a flight to our nation's capital.
Being taped into my room at 10 p.m. was new, as was going on my very first class trip.
Rhonda Schadler of Niles, director of the program, couldn't have been more organized. I especially liked the big bins of snacks for the bus ride.
Of course, she has been doing this for 17 years.
Everything was scheduled so the students would see as much as they could possibly see and still arrive back to the Red Brick School by midnight.
For some of the 18 and 19-year-olds, this was the first trip out of the midwest and the first time on an airplane.
She and my seatmate Tiffany Longanecker were thrilled with the experience. “I could just jump - it's like heaven,” she added.
Meanwhile a few rows ahead, Derek Gouff was less than excited. “I can feel the grey hair coming,” he said of his fear of heights.
Though I have flown many times, I had foolishly watched the A&E version of Flight 93 that weekend. Still we all made it safely and ready for the sights.
We passed the Pentagon, the world's largest office building. Where the plane hit was on the other side. Our bus driver explained how the city has changed since 911. Here the road had been moved farther away.
Everywhere there was construction, new roads and better security.
Since Monday was the day of the planned immigration strike and demonstration, the roads surrounding the Capitol were blocked off by many police cars and emergency vehicles. Helicopters were positioned nearby and fly overhead during the day.
The White House too had a temporary barricade so we needed to be across the road for our view.
Probably the most moving were the perfect rows of white tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. There are 300,000 buried there. The students showed respect as they watched the changing of the guard.
After that trek, they lost me though for the hour and a half walk through the memorials remembering the World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans.
The Smithsonian really needs days to be explored but hopefully the short taste the students experienced will lead them to return and bring their children, as I did many years ago.
Sitting on the Mall, the grassy area between the many buildings, I enjoyed being in the sun and watching people. There is a definite feeling of respect. People pick up their trash and weren't yelling or playing loud music. I really believe they take ownership and feel this is OUR capital.
Our final stop before heading back to Reagan National Airport was at the newer FDR outdoor memorial which I had never seen.
Huge stone pieces were carved with Franklin's quotations and bronze replicas represented moments in his life. Fountains flowed in the four gardens which represented his four terms as President of the United States.
We couldn't have asked for a better day. The sky was so blue and the weather was perfect.
At the end, when Superintendent of Cassopolis Public Schools Greg Weatherspoon said he would have liked to ride a bike that day, my comment was I would have rather had a motorized scooter.
My feet and sore legs will pass, but I hope the experience will stay in these young people's hearts.