Thursday, May 22, 2014

This Land is My Land

As soon as I moved out of D.C. in 2010, I started to recount all the things I didn't do while I lived there. What about all the monuments, all the memorials, all the museums? What about all the great touristy stuff right in my own proverbial backyard that I never even bothered to check out? On return visits, I tried to get some of it in but never quite found it atop my priority list.

When my friend Isaac called a few weeks ago to say that the Washington Monument would be reopening & that he wanted to get tickets to go to the top of it, I was happy to join. It's been closed since August 2011, when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit the District & did precisely no damage except to the city's tallest building & most iconic monument. The repairs made & ugly scaffolding removed, it was finally fit for visitors again, & we (in a somewhat overeager fashion) bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.

Tornado warnings & possible thunderstorms threatened to cancel our plans in the lead-up to the evening, but when the time came for our 8:30pm tour, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. Clear & just a little bit windy, with an uncharacteristic lack of humidity, it was the ideal night to look out from 550 feet over the Mid-Atlantic area. I'd never been up the monument, & my friends hadn't been for more than a decade apiece, so we played tourist in our own city & made the 70-second elevator ride to the top for the best view in the capital.

As we stood in line, sandwiched between two groups of middle school students visiting the District on class trips, I remembered what it felt like to be an eighth grader from the suburbs experiencing a city for the first time, to horse around with my friends at the FDR Memorial & snap photos with the massive bronze statue of Fala the dog, to stand in the bread line, to jump across the stones in the fountain. I remembered what it felt like to be 21 years old, a rising senior at Kent State University, sitting on the lawn outside the Washington Monument with friends in my summer work/study program, the first time I'd ever lived out of Ohio, inexplicably moved to tears as I watched fireworks explode over the city on a muggy Fourth of July night. I remembered when it felt like just a few years later to be 23, when my friends & I braved the bitter cold with thousands of other Americans standing on the National Mall at dawn to celebrate the first inauguration of President Barack Obama, back when we still truly believed in change we could believe in.

I remember the big moments, like all of those. But I'll remember the smaller, quieter ones, too, with friends like these on nights like this, just living life, looking out over the first city that ever held my heart - the city that took me in, watched me go, then let me come home again.




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