Note: A narrative essay written September 2012 for a class writing assignment.
I remember it like it was yesterday. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, Jei-Nhy. That’s why we’re allowing you to go,” was as far as my dad got before I bounced off my chair with excitement. I couldn’t believe it! Me, a sophomore in high school, had just gotten permission to travel across the continent to the heart of our nation–Washington D.C. I was just given an opportunity to visit some of American history’s most revered places. It felt like Christmas morning!
One of the first places I remembered visiting was the Arlington Cemetery. As we exited the bus, I distinctly remember the silence. We were visiting in the middle of morning, but there was no noise except for the wind rustling through the leaves. Aside from the silence, I remember white. No matter what direction I looked, all I could see was white on green for as far as my eyes could see. It stretched out for what seemed like miles. It took me a while to realize these were headstones. White, marbled headstones. As I stood gazing around the cemetery, listening to the guide, I couldn’t help but think of all the service men and women who gave their lives protecting our right to freedom. I couldn’t help but wonder what the story behind each headstone was or imagining the events that had occurred to make this landmark a possibility.
While at Arlington, I was able to witness the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. I found out later that our group was lucky; not all my peers had the chance to see it. Our guide explained there is a guard who stands watch at this tomb 24-hours a day and every hour, on the hour, they change guards. The ceremony was amazing to watch. The precision behind their every move was crisp and so proper. As I watched the two soldiers, a sense of pride came over me. I had never been prouder to be an American citizen than during those few moments.
This was definitely an educational trip. We had classes in the morning and night and they often times continued throughout the day during our field trips. Even though education was the main focus of the trip, we had room for fun. Since we don’t have subways anywhere in Hawaii, our teacher, who was also the adult chaperon on this trip, decided that we could not travel such a great distance from home and not experience ‘The Subway.’ Thankfully, Ms. Teacher had ridden the subway before so it wasn’t the ‘blind leading the blind’ type of experience. She took charge and walked us onto the main platform. There, we found the map of subway routes. Unlike the bus system, the map was fairly simple and straight-forward. We were able to figure out our route fairly easy. Once we found out what route we were to take, we made our way to the ticket agent to pay our toll.
I took pictures of everything! I took a picture of the turnstile, the subway’s main platform, the ticket agent, the approaching subway, the map of subway’s route, everything. And so did my peers. We were so amazed. I could only imagine what we must have looked like to the local residents, their normal morning routine interrupted by some high school tourists going shutter-bug crazy with their cameras. When the subway car took off, it truly felt like I was jetting away to the future in Doc Brown’s time-machine. It was just like the movies with the dimmed flickering lights, reddish-oranges seats, even the sleeping fellow at the corner of the car, but it was much cleaner. The whole trip was smooth sailing. When we reached our destination and got off the subway cart we were whirling with excitement from the whole experience.
There were many places in Washington D.C. that topped my favorites list, but one of my absolute favorites was the Library of Congress. Taking in the sheer size of the library was spectacular in itself. Walking up to the entrance, the building reminded me of a Roman soldier standing steadfast in the field of battle. The walls were thick and everything seemed made of stone. I couldn’t help but think of what it would have been like, living in Washington D.C. when this building was being built. The amount of man-power it must have taken and the amount of detail that was put into such a landmark. All this emotion and thought and I hadn’t even entered the library yet!
The amazement and wonder continued pass the entrance. As I walked into the Main Reading Room my eyes traveled up. The inside was just as impressive as the outside. The whole room seemed open up burst with rich colors: gold, maroon, deep brown. What caught my eye and piqued my curiosity was the second-level. When my eyes fell on the second level, I couldn’t help thinking of the those VIP booths you see around the stadium of a professional football team. I found out later they were reading rooms. The shelves of books were encased by glass and form its own little room. This was just the beginning.
We walked through the Great Hall, where the bold, rich colors of the Main Reading Room turned stark-white with a touch of gold. We walked across the squeaky marble floor, took pictures of the artwork dotted through the corridors, and stood amazed by the rows upon rows of books and information that was at my finger tips. I have to admit, I was speechless during most of the tour. Our guide told us how the Library was organized, what section you could find this information and so on. She talked about the building, the architecture, the people responsible for bringing the Library of Congress to life. The amount of information, both visually and verbally, was overwhelming and yet I soaked in as much as I could. This was, after all, a once in a life time experience and for someone who was a huge fan of libraries, it was paradise.
The experiences I encountered during my visit to Washington D.C. were unforgettable. These experiences have made a tremendous impact on my life, long past my high school days. Visiting historical landmarks, learning about America’s deep history, and doing things I have never done before fueled my thirst for knowledge and made a lasting impression on my soul. It was, indeed, a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.