Blog: December 2005
We started walking north on Fourteenth Street towards the Mall after three intense hours at the Holocaust Museum. Realizing it was still early in the mental processing of what we experienced, I began asking my Urban Trekkers what their initial impression was of what they had seen. "I hated those Nazis, I wanted to kill them!” one of the freshmen told me. Another girl, a sophomore, said "That’s just the way it was Mr. C, there wasn’t anything the people could do." My own feelings covered a lot of ground between those two extremes shared by the two students. Most importantly our students were feeling a range of emotions and the history of WWII and the Holocaust had come alive for them.
Nineteen Urban Trekkers visited Washington D.C. during the Christmas break. We were fourteen students and five adult volunteers who drove down from Camden and stayed four days and three nights at the International Youth Hostel located at Eleventh & K Streets. Being downtown afforded us the opportunity to visit most of our destinations on foot. We sure did some hiking, with so much to see and the excitement of being away from home the miles didn’t seem to be noticed.
Our destinations included many of the memorials; it was pretty cool to stand on the terrace at the Lincoln Memorial, the very spot where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" address. While visiting the wall of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial I asked the students to find the name of a soldier I had known from my high school days. In the age of digital photography it wasn’t long before two students came running over to me with the image of Andrew P. Corbin displayed in the frame of their digital camera.
Unfortunately we were not able to get passes for a White House tour, though we did take a walk around the building and got to see the White House Christmas Tree. My own impressions of our Nations capitol these days is one of a "bunker state" barricades, dividing walls, Capitol police standing on the steps of the Capitol with loaded rifles and dark wrap around sunglasses. One of the students recited a quote for me, she said it was from one of the founding fathers, "when you give up freedom for security you gain neither", an issue worth discussion for all of us.
We also visited the House of Representatives in The Capitol Building, Folger Shakespeare Library, Ford’s Theater, and the rooming house across the street where Lincoln succumbed to his gunshot wound. After leaving the Capitol we walked down First Street past the Supreme Court building (where we saw our first organized protest - for the pro-life cause) to Union Station. A trip to the National Zoo, in search of the baby panda only revealed his dad. The National Cathedral was an interesting stop along our trek. Among the over one hundred gargoyles and hundreds of grotesques carved into stone on the outside of the cathedral walls there exists a carving of Darth Vader, who would have known!
There were many places we had hoped to visit but time ran out ... although I would be amiss if I didn't mention the awesome experience we had by staying at the International Youth Hostel. As I mentioned earlier the downtown location served us well. We were able to walk to many of our locations and the time spent trekking afforded us close-ups of DC’s magnificent statues and architecture. The hostel with its eight and ten bunk rooms and common bathroom facilities provided affordable lodging for our group. We were also able to bring our own food, store it in the refrigerator and prepare our meals. The large dining area provided a place to start our day with devotion and a time to lay out the plans for the day. The large private bunk room gave us a place to gather, mentally unpack our day’s activities and relax together during the evening. We divided ourselves into three crews, kitchen, planning and activity, we were an efficient group.
Our DC expedition is now a memory, but a significant benchmark in the travel logs of Urban Trekkers. We have a retreat coming up in February and much planning to do for our Mount Washington, New Hampshire Expedition in April.