Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DC: Day 3

Danny and I were tired of the hotel restaurant, so we explored around Arlington and found the Silver Diner. We arrived a few minutes before 7am and they weren’t yet opened, but the wait was worth it. Our server was a nice lady named Mama D and the food was delicious!

We caught the 8am shuttle to Rosslyn and by 8:30 we were in downtown DC. As we were heading down 10th street, the buildings looked familiar, and I soon realized we were standing across the street from Ford’s Theatre.

Late in the evening of April 14, 1865, the actor John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln while the President was watching the hit play Our American Cousin. The impact of the bullet, which entered Lincoln’s head behind the left ear, shattered the bones in Lincoln’s face, and nearly dislodged the President’s right eye before coming to rest. While Booth fled the theater, a doctor assessed Lincoln’s wound and determined the President would not survive.

Looking behind me, I saw we were standing next to the Peterson house. The dying President was carried there, and had to be laid out diagonally on the bed due to his great height. At 7:22am, April 15, Lincoln died.

After the saddening tour of Ford’s Theater, Danny and I decided to lighten up, and headed up the street to Madame Tussaud’s Wax museum. We’ve been to the Niagara Falls branch, but the DC location is appropriately focused on American historical figures. The pictures say it all:

It was rather chilly and damp outside as we headed toward the National Archives. A long line indicated we were in for a wait before we saw the Charters of Freedom - and the staff only allow a limited number of people in the building at once. A light drizzle had been falling, and five minutes before we entered the Archives, the skies opened up. Fortunately, we had an umbrella. Once in the building, we headed for the Charters. The parchments are so faded by now as to be illegible. The room is dimly lit to prevent further deterioration, and flash photography is of course forbidden. I was deeply moved even though we have a long way to go before we’re truly free.

There’s much more at the Archives than the Charters. We viewed several displays along with a film about how the Archives can help people trace their genealogy. I know but little about my family history past my grandparents.

Near the National Archives is the Natural history museum we abandoned on Tuesday. We went to the second floor to view the gemstone display which culminated with the Hope Diamond. I must confess that diamonds, gold, silver and the like do not impress me. They have no intrinsic value, beyond appearance and rarity. Unlike music, for example, they are passive and don’t “do” anything.

Far more interesting to me was the display of various skeletons, including a Collie who may well have been an ancestor of Mason.

The afternoon was racing by, and by the time we headed next door to the American history museum, we were getting hungry. We caught a display on Lincoln and another on the Presidency, then a moment of relaxing in the café before heading back to Arlington.

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