Chasing History

4

So, there we were in “our nation’s capitol.” My childhood textbooks often referenced Washington, D.C. in those terms. In the movie Forrest Gump, main character Tom Hanks used those same words during a tour of the city.
Our annual summer family vacation took us there last week. We had done the beach scene a few times and decided on a different trip this year. Though we’ve all been there before, it seemed like perfect timing. The grandson is nearly ten years old and developing a strong interest in American history.
He is particularly curious about President Lincoln, and interested even more so in Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps that is because like a large segment of people in Virginia, he is supposedly a very distant descendant of the Jefferson family through the President’s brother. (At least that’s what research shows.)
Washington is a city of contrasts, where modern life meets history. Roadways are filled with vehicular traffic, constant bumper to bumper streams of morning speeders headed to jobs in the city. Passengers of the Metro dash from platform to train, sitting or standing, eyes glued to their cell phones as they wind their way to a final destination. A final arrival at Union Station sends swarms of people hurrying in every direction.
The city is a mystical, almost magical place, history on every corner. Though George Washington was the only President who did not live in The White House, it’s easy to imagine him once riding horseback or by carriage through the burgeoning city. As we sat in the Ford Theatre and gazed upon the theatre box where Lincoln once sat, I could just as clearly envision him there, seeking a night away from the worries of a divided nation at war, only to meet his own death at the hands of an assassin.
Walking through the public portions of The White House, a shiver runs over me to think of the presidents who have resided here, and the historical events each one and the First Lady have conducted. Or imagine the echo of footsteps in the Capitol’s hallways where former Congressional members for more than two hundred years have walked, headed into session, making decisions on life or death issues that affect not only the USA but the entire world.
Though we toured the city for several days, there was much we did not see. We bypassed several locations we had visited on previous trips — the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetery, the Vietnam Wall, and others. Perhaps to me the most reverential moments were spent in the National Archives building which houses the original Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
One more thing I need to add. Should you visit the White House just be aware it is not a good idea to do so soon after radiation treatment or even medical tests such as an MRI. I know of which I speak. And to further quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I got to say ‘bout that.