Wednesday, March 9, 2011
DC Days Five and Six
Next we headed to the National Archives. The building was practically empty. It took less than 30 minutes to enter, go through security, and see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. There isn't much education regarding the documents (no tour or anything, you just walk by), so that was a little disappointing. Because we finished so far ahead of schedule, a couple of students got to see a movie. They had been asking often, and we kept saying it wouldn't fit in the schedule, but it did work out at last and they were thrilled. Last night one of our girls led a lovely devotion, talking about how she learned through the post-earthquake semester that God is never surprised by our reactions or thoughts. We got a noise complaint two nights ago from singing during our nightly team meetings, so last night we just listened to a song and has private prayer time.
This morning was freezing, and we headed off to Arlington National Cemetery. We attended the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was very moving. While walking to see the ceremony, you pass fields of white marble graves in perfect lines, name after name after name. You see the wives and children on the back of the stones, sometimes just called "infant" with only one date- one day of life. I spoke to my little brother last night (the Marine), and he said he now knows 21 people buried at Arlington. There were two funerals taking place while we were on the grounds, and we jumped at both 21-gun salutes. One was so close that we could hear the trumpet- we stopped walking for a moment to stand and listen to Taps.
This afternoon was spent at Mount Vernon. It takes over an hour to get there, with several Metro train changes and buses involved. It was worth it. The mansion is in pristine historical condition, the tour guides are the best educators we've seen yet, and the museum on the grounds is my favorite so far. One thing I noticed- Mount Vernon takes no pains to hide the intensive amount of slave labor used to run the estate and grounds. They also don't hide the conditions the slaves worked in- for instance, how the laundry women carried dozens of buckets per load, plunging their hands in boiling water and hand-scrubbing with chemicals all day. George Washington, Martha, and 25 members of their family are buried in an elaborate vault, celebrated with large stones and memorials. Next to the vault is the slave burial site, a field of an unknown number of unmarked graves to which one monument was added over 100 years later. What do my students think about that? Many are black, but do they identify in any way with African slavery in America?
Ben and I laughed the whole time about the neon yellow badges we were instructed to wear by the staff identifying us as CHAPERONES. The kids were in a great mood, even in the freezing cold, and the day ended well.