I'm glad we walked to this place instead of taking the Metro. At first it was just a matter of expediency that saw us walking across the Potomac. The Potomac, I can't say that word or hear that word without remembering the Apocryphal tale about young George Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River.
Seems like I was taught this in school at a very young age. Back in the early 60's when I first heard this, a dollar was big money. Back in the 1700's when Washington supposedly did this, a dollar was a fortune!
Today you can't even buy a Hershey Bar with a buck. The current president throws trillions of dollars into the river and he doesn't bat an eye.
But I digress, anyway the Potomac is a wide river, you would have to have an arm like Randy Johnson to make that shot.
We made it to the Arlington Visitors Center to wait for Renee and while milling around I came to a large black and white photograph of the Arlington Memorial Bridge that we just walked across. In the photo there were thousands and thousands of people lining the way as a horse drawn caisson carried the body of 46 year old John Kennedy the 35th President of the United States.
"Ask not what your Country can do for you, ask what you can do for your Country", you sure this guy was a Democrat?
Anyway there is history every place you walk, stand, or look around here.
Renee finally arrives and we take off. There is much ground to cover and lots of things we want to see. Of course, The Changing Of The Guard at The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier, is top of the list and if we hustle we can just make the next one. We get there right as it begins. Standing on the steps high on the hill watching this unfold gave me chills. I doubt that it would give Chris Mathews a thrill up his leg, but it was a very profound moment for me.
After quietly observing this very solemn and honored ceremony we slip off behind the steps and walk along the Amphitheater. There were openings at the back and Renee spotted something and asked me what it was.
I didn't know exactly, but it kind of looked like a mast with a crows nest mounted in a concrete structure.
We decided it warranted a quick look.
I was immensely glad we did. It was a mast, a very old mast from a very old ship.
We walked around the front of the concrete structure and I read the bronze plaque that read "USS Maine". "Remember the Maine!", I said. The rallying cry that moved a nation to war with Spain after the Maine either blew up in the Havana harbor or was blown up by the Spanish in 1898.
I remember reading about the events surrounding this pivotal sinking. I had no idea the mast, anchor and ships bell were salvaged and brought here as a memorial to the 168 souls lost on board that day.
The chills just keep on coming!
I could spend the rest of the rapidly depleting day right here among the memories and the ghosts of The Maine, or walk back to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, but Renee eyes our next destination on top of a hill.
Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee or at least it used to be. Of course when war between the States broke out Lee was not in a sellers market and he had to walk away from equity.
Again something I did not know, actually, seeing how History class was nap time for me it's not surprising I didn't know General Lee once had a home here.
The Arlington House although a thing of beauty, the view of the porch is what held my gaze the most. And just a few short steps away I could see the enormity and the relative closeness of the Pentagon.
Again I am getting schooled just by looking around. I guess I have always known the approximate location of the Pentagon but now I really know it, I can see it, I can walk to it. It's a shorter hike then what I'm used to. Standing on the hill I could imagine what it looked like on that day of infamy.
As we were looking down at this amazing building where the best military minds in world punch the clock, a couple struck up a conversation with us about it.
They had just been there and saw the 9/11 Memorial that is located on what used to be the parking lot at the side of the building where some murderous cowards crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the side of The Pentagon.
The couple was persuading us to go see this Memorial, we didn't need any convincing, we were going. We had just one more stop to make here at Arlington. We had to see the JFK Memorial and the Eternal Flame.
Renee and I don't agree much when it comes to politics, but this is one thing we can see eye to eye on.
In a few short minutes we walked downhill to where President Kennedy rests. Again my memory shifts around all the history I'm surrounded by and settles in a third grade classroom some 51 years ago. The intercom crackles and a muffled unintelligible radio broadcast comes through the speaker and into the ears of several confused 3rd graders.
After the announcement, the teacher had to explain to us that the president had just been shot.
I was, we were, too young to understand the immediate impact of this event, much less the historical significance.
Today, this old man can understand some of it, bit not all. It is profound to be this close to the body of JFK and turn around and see the route the funeral procession took to bring his body here.
My memory of those few days goes from hearing that static filled news over the intercom, to the day I was standing in our living room watching a black and white TV showing the coffin of Kennedy laying in State while thousands upon thousands of world leaders, dignitaries and just ordinary peoples shuffled by to pay their respects. I don't know why but I couldn't stop watching it. I just remember while this was going on they were walking Lee Harvey Oswald down some corridor and they kept switching the coverage between the two events. Then I saw on live television Jack Ruby shoot Oswald.
I ran through the house yelling my head off trying to get everyone's attention. I was the only one in the room.
Lots of things happen to a kid, I imagine you forget 99 percent of it, no matter how feeble minded I may be now or will be in the future, I will never forget that black and white event.
As if today day couldn't get anymore poignant, it was time to make the pilgrimage to The Pentagon.
We jumped the Arlington Metro to the Pentagon City (I never heard of Pentagon City), Metro for lunch. After lunch we chose to walk to the Pentagon, I wish we would have gotten a pass to tour the inside of the building but you have to apply way in advance to do that. Understandable. I would have wanted to see this amazing building even if it hadn't been one of the targets of 9/11. It's a name that is synonymous with America's power and strength.
They broke ground for the Pentagon September 11th 1941. It stood impenetrable for 60 years.
The Pentagon Memorial is unlike any I have ever seen and a lot of meaning is built into its layout. There are 184 bench-like structures with a matching water feature under each. Each one with a name of one of the victims inscribed on the end. The ones that have the ends that face away from the building represents the victims who were in the Pentagon. The ones that face the other direction is a memorial of the victims who were aboard Flight 77.
We were there in the daylight. I got this picture off the Internet that was taken at night.
The whole day has been somber to say the least and very sobering. Now I think I could use a drink.