It’s been well over a month since we returned from our DC trip, and I have yet to write about it. I struggle to believe something we spent over a year planning is already in the past. Such an amazing gift to be able to travel with my kids and my parents, and show them so many things, share so many memories. There was more to it though than just a family vacation. There are moments that I will carry with me always, not just as memories from a trip, but as part of me.
I have a photo from the week as my background image on my iPad. It’s been there pretty much since we got home. And it still grabs me every time I turn my iPad on. Our first full day in DC, we took the Metro out to the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. I figured it would be emotional, but didn’t expect it to be what it was. If you’ve never been, and get the opportunity, go visit the memorial. It’s beautiful, and gut-wrenching. On one of the benches, we saw this:
I stood there staring at this heart made from the rocks surrounding the benches, and I started to cry. Someone put those rocks there in that shape. Maybe it was a family member of that person’s bench, someone who lost someone on that horrific day. To me, more than anything else, this heart meant more than anything else in the entire memorial. We all lost that day. For many, it was the loss of someone they loved. That heart spoke volumes to me.
We went to the Holocaust Museum our last full day. We didn’t see all of it, but what we did see got through to the kids. They wanted to know why any one race would believe themselves better than any other, much less why that race would attempt to exterminate any other race. They believed this was in the past, that our world had learned from World War II and had moved beyond this particular evil. The part of the museum that shows this still exists in our world was quite shocking to my children. It opened their eyes, as well as mine. I found that the most important lesson of that museum – there are still lessons to be learned. There is still evil in the world to be spoken out and fought against.
Seeing everything through the eyes of my children at the same time I was seeing it through my Daddy’s eyes was immeasurable. They are further bonded through this shared experience and shared memories. Watching my autistic child get excited about something besides his DS and iPod, listening to him chattering about what he’d seen and what he was going to see, those are the moments you live for.
We spent one day walking around the Monument, Reflecting Pool, and all the Memorials. First of all, my kids have been obsessed with the Washington Monument since their virtual field trips to DC in second or third grade. Watching them see it in person, and seeing them put their hands on it was one of the coolest things ever. They’ve only ever seen any of this in pictures, on the computer, and on television. My Daddy had the exact same expression on his face as the kids.
We walked along the wall of the Vietnam Memorial. They couldn’t believe how many names were listed, how many people were lost. It just made it real to them. And I have another favorite photo from that afternoon.
And then watching my Daddy stand up from the wheelchair to walk through the Korean War Memorial….that one made me cry. He said he couldn’t stay seated. He had to walk. It was a part of him I’ve never had the chance to know much before. I learned a lot about him, about that part of his life, with this trip.
I’ve been convinced for years travel changes you. You take part of wherever you go with you, no matter how many times you visit a city, country, island. These moments will stay with me, always.