Friday, July 5, 2013

Where the Heart Is

Independence Avenue
Washington D.C. didn't disappoint in delivering a memorable Fourth of July. As expected, D.C. is the number one place to celebrate one of America's most important national holidays. Fortunately enough, we were able to slow down the pace from the past couple days. So, we didn't begin our day until 11:00 AM, but despite a later time, our day was busier than our time at UPenn yesterday. We must have walked for miles, but with good weather on our side.

Having taken the DC Circulator to get to the White House, we explored a different part of D.C. And to my surprise, its architecture was like what you could see in urban areas of California. The twist however, was that there would be one modern building juxtaposed with a building of an older style you wouldn't see as often. The Executive Office Building for example, looked out of place amidst the modern architecture of its counterparts. It boggles my mind how by taking a short bus ride, I felt like I was leaving D.C. for another part of the country. The way D.C. is built makes it so that you get the big city feel, without having it be geographically large. 

And almost immediately after the Executive Office Building was the White House. Of course, there were crowds lining up take a picture for keeps. It felt as if we were waiting to take a picture in front of Disneyland. I was in awe of the whole moment of being in front of the White House. I finally understood the history behind the White House among a plethora of things because of my US History teacher, Mr. Wilson. 

My cohort, Mr. Ramsey, and Mr. Mannix with the White House behind us

Before crossing over to see the Holocaust Memorial Museum, we were able to catch some of the Independence Day parade. Since there was limited access to crosswalks, we walked around the parade route to get to the other side. Watching while walking through the sea of people, I was able to see people of different cultures perform. Since America's known as the Melting Pot, it was only fitting that the parade incorporate all sorts of performances. 

Since the Smithsonian Museums weren't open all day, we were only able to catch the Holocaust Memorial Museum for the day. It wasn't until then when our bags were check that I realized  the magnitude the  9/11 attack placed on Washington D.C. For every person who carried water, they were asked to take a sip. Although I found it unusual at first, I quickly became aware of why they used this security measure. In doing so, security officers are able to keep their museums from being harmed by individuals. By drinking your water for example, it assures security officers that your liquid is safe, and not an item used for a lethal device. Because of one bad decision, America has taken several security measures that wouldn't otherwise have been implemented. It's a shame of how one event can change the lives of plenty on a negative note. 

As expected, the Holocaust Memorial Museum was heartbreaking to walk through. To think that hatred for one group of people could be taken as far as a massive genocide is something that can't be taken back. The world may have evolved since then, but these actions can never be forgotten. The tension of different ethnicities may still exist, but lucky not to have it at such extremes. Killing a single group of people based on the color of their skin or ethnic background is inhumane. Walking through the museum, I was reminded of the movie "The Freedom Writers." It was the perfect example of deaths caused by ignorance. Relating it to the Holocaust, I concluded that people who involved themselves in these killings did so because they were convinced and told to do so in some cases.  Their choices were determined not by themselves, but by people who could work the crowd. It's as if they were programmed machines trained to kill. That's no way of living, and it's good knowing that our society has moved past this tragic event.

After finishing the museum, we all grabbed a bite to eat. We ended up having Hungarian food at a festival, a first for most of us I assume. Immediately after, the festival was packing up for the fireworks later that night. Since Mr. Ramsey was leaving early for the Bay Area soon, we found him a route to take a taxi back to the hotel. Saying  our goodbyes, our cohort decided on walking to Lincoln Memorial. Before we knew it, rows of stairs were taken by people claiming their spots for the fireworks. And by the time we returned to the Lincoln Memorial to catch a place to sit for us, there were ten times as much people.

The firework show was spectacular. I'm shocked by how good of a spot we had, despite the gnats that were irritating me. Seeing the fireworks with my own eyes was beginning to sink in. As the fireworks were popping like popcorn, I felt as if I was having my picture taken by Don hundreds of times, especially by the time the finale came rolling in. And the vibration I felt from the fireworks being released into the air was immense. I'm sure the thousands of people who were here could feel it. I'm confident that our fireworks were the best being shown in the country, especially with the different techniques used. 

This Fourth of July may be the best I'll ever spend this national holiday. Not only because of its location, but because I was walking through history. Having seen some of our nation's finest buildings and museums today, I realized that seeing things from a distance doesn't give you the exposure every individual should receive. In fact, my curiosity of the world has heightened these past couple days. Yes, I've seen these historic sites on television, but seeing it up close and personal is something you can't beat. I felt humbled once again for having been given this opportunity as I walked through D.C. with my cohort, Mr. Mannix, and Mr. Ramsey. Walking back to hotel from the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the night was well worth it. I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. Because of our time at UPenn, I'm excited for what Columbia University will bring us as we travel to New York.

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