Today we travel to Washington by train for a day trip. Departure 4:15 in the morning return 11:30 in the evening. We had booked tickets since February at $58 per person. So at 3:00 in the morning Uber was waiting for us to Penn Station ($27, the taxi wanted $50). Short wait and boarding the Amtrak for Washington. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of the trip since we were sleeping the whole time. Suffice it to say that I had set an alarm for 3 o’clock so we wouldn’t go out to Miami.
We arrived around 8am and were blown away by the grandeur of Union Station. On our way out we called an Uber with our initial destination being the US Marine Corps War Memorial just outside of Arlington Cemetery. This memorial was inspired by the iconic 1945 photo of six Marines raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, taken by Associated Press military photographer Joe Rosenthal.
We then proceeded around the perimeter of the cemetery to its main entrance. Arlington National Cemetery is a military cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River and across from Washington, DC. In its 2,556 acres, more than 400,000 dead of US wars, beginning with the Civil War, are buried. After the initial check we went inside. It was a truly unique experience. Thousands of graves with multiple dates in a vast green landscape. Dozens of landmarks in this area. We saw the following:
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, is a Greek Revival style mansion located in Arlington, Virginia and was once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It overlooks the Potomac River and the National Mall in Washington, DC. During the American Civil War, the surrounding grounds of the mansion were selected as the site of Arlington National Cemetery.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
This may be the best-known monument in all of Arlington National Cemetery, and that’s because it honors not just a person, but an idea. It was originally built as the resting place of an unknown soldier during World War I, but the tomb has since been expanded to honor unknown soldiers who died in later wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The unidentified Vietnam War soldier has been identified as Michael Joseph Blassie, Jr. The Memorial to the Unknown Soldier has been and is a place where presidents, politicians, public figures and members of the military have come to honor the veterans of the United States of America. Today, the memorial continues to serve as a symbol of the sacrifice made by members of the military and the idea that no soldier fighting for their country should be forgotten. There we saw the changing of the guard.
Space Shuttle Challenger
In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger took off for space, but just 78 seconds after liftoff, the space shuttle exploded. All on board were killed by the explosion. This was a particular tragedy for US school children, as one of the astronaut crew, Christa McAuliffe, was to be the first citizen in space. She was selected from more than 11,000 applicants for NASA’s Teacher in Space program, and as a result, many classrooms across the country watched live as the tragedy unfolded. In honor of the crew’s sacrifice for the advancement of science, the cremated remains of the astronauts are interred at the Challenger Memorial.
Thurgood Marshall Grave
Marshall was the first black person to become a Supreme Court justice and was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. Thurgood Marshall served in that role for 24 years and was the only black justice during that time. Before becoming a Supreme Court justice, Marshall argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
John F. Kennedy & Jacqueline Kennedy
John F. Kennedy is one of two presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Next to John F. Kennedy’s grave is buried Jackie Kennedy as the first lady who died in 1994. Beside the former president and first lady are the graves of their two infant children. Arabella was stillborn in August 1956 and Patrick lived only a few hours (39), dying a few months before his father in 1963, of respiratory problems.
We left the cemetery and crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River to the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately for us, we ran into a film shoot and it delayed us quite a bit. We went inside and admired the giant seated statue of Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president. Just below the steps of the building begins the Abraham Lincoln Reflecting Pool where the huge Washington Monument obelisk is reflected.
Leaving the Lincoln Memorial. we headed to the right of the pool and arrived at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This memorial honors the sacrifices of the 36,000 Americans who died during the three-year period of the Korean War. Among other things, the monument includes 19 stainless steel statues. Each statue is larger than life size, between 2.21m and 2.29m tall. Each weighs nearly 500 pounds. The figures represent a platoon on patrol, drawn from branches of the armed forces. Fourteen of the statues are from the US Army, three are from the Marine Corps, one is from the Marine Corps and one is from the Air Force.
Continuing our walk on The Mall we arrived at the World War II Memorial, which is dedicated to World War II. It consists of 56 pillars, representing the US states and territories, and two triumphal arches for the Atlantic and Pacific battlefields, surrounding an oval plaza and fountain. The Freedom Wall, located across from the plaza’s entrance, has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. In front of the wall is the message “Here we mark the price of freedom”.
A little further down is the Washington Monument, the giant obelisk. Built to commemorate George Washington, from marble, granite and gneiss, it is the tallest stone structure and obelisk in the world. Its height is 169.294 m as measured in 1884. Its construction started in 1848 and stopped for a period of 23 years, from 1854 to 1877 due to lack of funds. It was completed in 1885.
Heading to the last station on The Mall, the Capitol, we saw Washington museums left and right, all of which had free admission. At the Capitol we had booked free entry and participation in guided tours. What is there to say about this house? The temple of democracy in the USA. was in front of us. Where the United States Congress meets and the seat of the legislative branch of the US federal government. We took the guided tour of the Rotunda, the National Statuary Hall and the Crypt. Unique moments in a historic place.
Break for food and rest at Shake Shack.
Then we went to the White House but the approach was closed. It must have been the President there since 3 identical helicopters were flying over us where one landed inside the White House.
We admired the view from the Washington Monument some more, until it began to cloud ominously. We wanted to go to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum but unfortunately it was closed for renovations so we ended up at the Natural History Museum just before the skies opened.
After walking around a bit more we got the train back around 8. Again sleep until New York.