Even though we were 600 miles north of home, the weather was much the same–hot and muggy. Since driving and parking had been successful (and cheaper) the day before, we decided to just drive into the city for the day. We made use of my iPhone map and its walking option. It conveniently had the name of most buildings so that when we saw something cool, we could figure out what it was (like the Smithsonian Castle).
We started the day with Elizabeth’s museum choice, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was a bit surprised that this was Elizabeth’s choice, so we didn’t really plan ahead for the visit. This meant that we couldn’t get passes to the permanent exhibit, which I understand has artifacts and personal stories. However, we still spent hours going through the special exhibits and feel like it was still a solid representation of the events and people. We first went through Daniel’s Story, which was a child’s perspective of the events (through his diary and some artifacts) from a time of normalcy up through the time his family was captured. It was sombering and educational, with near silence among everyone around us. After that, we walked through an extensive exhibit on Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust. This exhibit was rough, no doubt about it, as there was story after story of neighbors and friends who allowed (or brought about) attacks and capture in the face of fear. Thankfully, there were a few stories of brave people who stood up for their Jewish friends and neighbors, helping them in various ways. I spent individual time with each of the kids at various points in this exhibit and they all echoed thoughts that mirrored my own. How could these people have known how far it would go? What would I do in a similar situation? Would I really help someone else’s family if it meant risking my own? Would I have the strength to endure such hardships and capture? Why is there so much fear? This museum was not only educational, it was humbling. As you can imagine, I couldn’t find it in me to take any pictures there, so all I have is the building and memories.
Although it seemed odd at first to be out in the shiny, happy town bustling with people, we had a decent walk to lunch back at L’Enfant Plaza mall. Along the way, we had to keep reigning the kids in (especially Brandon) as they had a tendency to want to run ahead (with no fear of crowds, strangers, or getting lost). Everyone enjoyed choosing their own options for lunch, and we had a good laugh about how we’d dashed through that place two days ago looking for our tour.
For the afternoon, we went to Alexander’s museum choice, the National Air & Space Museum. It was fun reading about the Wright Flyer and marveling at how advanced flight is today in a relatively short amount of time. We enjoyed seeing all the WWI and WWII aircraft, especially the models of aircraft carriers. (Which caused the kids to remind me that we had been on an aircraft carrier a few years back, the USS Yorktown. That’s probably the most memorable trip we took with Cub Scouts, and comes up surprisingly often, but I digress…) The guys were all intrigued by the exhibit featuring drones (or more appropriately, unmanned aerial vehicles), with the Predator being especially interesting. Of course, I couldn’t get enough of the space exhibits. We got to walk through a space capsule (Thom really should have taken a picture of Alex folding up into that thing), touch moon rocks, and read about the entire progression of the space program. I could’ve stayed in that area for days, but the natives finally got restless. So, I sent them off on their own adventures. Brandon and Elizabeth were dying to get in the flight simulator, and Thom and Alexander headed off to the Dark Universe planetarium show (aka spooky space bits narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson). We had one final thing to marvel at…the variety of world money in the museum donation boxes, then we were off to buy astronaut ice cream and pressed pennies. 🙂
We actually got back at a decent time and had a little picnic dinner at the hotel, then finished with some pool time. The pool felt great but the temps had cooled down and some wind moved in, so it was a chilly exit from the pool. We did laundry (with lots of quarters) and got ready to leave the next morning.
Reflections: Thom liked the Dark Universe show and had fond memories of the whole museum as he recalled visiting a bunch with his dad as a kid (especially seeing the Skyhawk and all the Navy models). Alexander was shocked by how tight the space capsule was, and was intrigued by the planetarium show as well. Elizabeth really absorbed emotions from the Holocaust Museum, finding it so sad that so many people (including children) suffered in this way; but on the flip side, she also loved being the gunner in the simulator (how’s that for a dichotomy?). Brandon loved being a pilot in the simulator and giving orders to the gunner (Lizzy)…although Lizzy said no one gave her orders.