Thanks to the itinerary Ian mapped out for us, we managed to squeeze in Arlington, the USDA cafeteria, Holocaust Museum, and Pentagon Memorial before our 7 p.m. return flight Tuesday evening.
Most of our time at Arlington we spent examining the Kennedy memorial. Ian brought plans and renderings so we could better envision the senator's future grave site. We also happened upon a funeral taking place nearby. The soldiers who participate in the services demonstrate such respect for those who have served our country, and such consideration for the family. I couldn't help but think back to the soldiers who folded Grandpa's flag before handing it to Grandma at his graveside.
The USDA cafeteria came recommended by Ren, who frequented it on lunch breaks while he was completing his intensive study program across the street at the Holocaust Museum. Keeping in mind it is a cafeteria and not a five-star restaurant, it was quite tasty. I also realized I've fully adjusted to the cordial but cooler tendencies of New England when I was taken aback by the guy behind the counter, who cheerfully offered to make my panini to order, sans mushrooms. His smile had joy behind it, not formality, and it was refreshing.
There are not words to describe the Holocaust Museum (or photography, which isn't permitted in the exhibits). The musty wooden smell of the interior of a cattle car that brought hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting Jews to their deaths. The pile of empty suitcases that had been filled with personal belongings and family treasures, the owners fully expecting to use the contents. The tower of family portraits. The overwhelming smell of leather in a room piled with discarded shoes. The stories of the debate on whether or not to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Germany (the winners of the debate argued sports weren't political, despite the fact that successful games would support Hitler's cause).
I recommend exploring their website. Not only do they have information, teaching material, and numerous online exhibits, they also address genocide as a current issue and list at-risk countries including Sudan, near and dear to our family.
Our final stop was the Pentagon Memorial. It is eerie to see the repaired section of the building, a subtle change in color distinguishing the old from the new. The memorial is beautiful. One bench for each victim, organized by birth year. Still pools of water under each bench. Muted colors, exquisite detailing. If you're interested in learning more about the design, you can view the Washington Post interactive here.
And just like that, 24 hours after we started, we were on a plane home.
I've been to D.C. two other times, and both visits were less than a day. Ian says if we keep it up, we'll hit all the popular destinations by age 60. Maybe by then the Metro will have simplified fares and written instructions that can fit on the machine in font bigger than size 10. Nah, it's Washington.