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St. Joseph-Ogden High School student Sophie Plocher kept a diary of her trip to Washington D.C. for the Leader. Here are her entries.
Saturday, January 19
After months of waiting in anticipation, the day was finally here.
Mr. Schacht and 13 students woke up on Friday knowing that they were off to Washington D.C. for the Inauguration, among many other things.
We met at 5 a.m. to board the bus, all tired yet bursting with energy.
A couple hours later, we had reached Midway Airport in Chicago.
We would be meeting the Iowa group of kids that we were sharing our charter bus with.
We were all curious. I was trying not to think about D.C. too much because I didn’t want to get overly excited. It was difficult not to, however, when we were boarding the plane with the Iowa kids.
We were boarding a plane to Washington D.C.!
We landed in D.C. and all boarded the charter bus and met our bus driver.
His name was Abe and I couldn’t help but think of him as our pathway to history.
He would be driving us to monuments, to the city, to museums, and along the way he rattled off events in history and explained them. Without this man, we would just be tourists wandering aimlessly in the city of D.C.
We ate lunch and quickly went to Ford’s Theatre. It was a bit disappointing because the actual theatre wasn’t open. It was just the museum. It seemed like all of our eyes truly did light up, however, when we saw John Wilkes Booth’s gun. It gave me chills to stand a foot away from the weapon that killed President Abraham Lincoln.
We departed to visit the White House and I thought about how awesome it was to answer “What are you doing?” with “Just going to the White House…” It was a little chaotic because of the approaching Inauguration.
There was a giant bullet-proof box in front of the house so Mr. President could watch the parade.
We were happy just to be there, however.
Of course, we did some souvenir shopping afterwards. Abe, the bus driver, decided we should go to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
It was something that I would have never thought to go to if I were traveling the city alone.
I thanked Abe for truly showing us the city.
We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant in Chinatown, and before hitting up the Youth Inaugural Dance we stopped by the Jefferson Memorial.
Once again, it was hard to think about how we were just making a pit stop.
We were making a pit stop to the Jefferson Memorial.
We all took some beautiful pictures and marveled at the statue of Jefferson.
For some, the Youth Inaugural Dance might have been a highlight, and it was definitely fun.
However, knowing what was coming up in our schedule for the next couple days made it a little difficult to truly enjoy a dance.
We were all exhausted and an hour at this dance was quite enough fun. Saturday was done and we were all officially exhausted.
Sunday, January 20
First thing in the morning, we stopped by the Air Force Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
We couldn’t go to Arlington and the rumor was that the President was there.
It’s not every day that you can’t do what you want to do because the President is busy visiting where you want to go.
We couldn’t even be frustrated about it. It was too cool.
We took the opportunity to take pictures and learn about FDR and MLK. Because the Inauguration was so close, it seemed like everywhere we went it was a madhouse.
Once again, however, we couldn’t complain.
After visiting these memorials, we went to the Holocaust Museum.
This was especially emotional for me and I know it was for others, as well. I don’t want to go into too much detail because I feel it something that you can only truly experience and understand in person, and to summarize it would be almost disrespectful.
Everyone navigated through the museum at their own pace, some lingering in certain places longer than others.
By the time we were finished, we were all much more quiet and reserved.
The things that we had just taken in and processed would have to be things that we mulled over for days.
It wasn’t something we would get over in five minutes.
In this state of respect and a hunger for learning, we all departed for the Smithsonian Museums.
We had very limited time and spent about forty-five minutes in each museum.
We went to the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Air and Space Museum.
At each place everyone tried to take in as much information as humanly possible with some breaks along the way.
Considering we did not have very much time, everyone was just trying to see as much of the museums as possible without completely skimming.
After an emotionally draining time at the Holocaust Museum and a mentally draining time at the Smithsonian, everyone was ready for dinner. We went to Chipotle and then right back out to more memorials.
We all took in as much as possible.
We were intrigued by each memorial and took so many pictures. It was difficult to board the charter bus to head back to the hotel, but once we did we were all relieved because we were so exhausted.
Monday, January 21
Today was it: the Inauguration. I woke up at 4 a.m. and jumped out of bed.
I was too excited to be tired. We boarded the charter bus and it set off to the bus parking lot.
On our way there, we almost got stopped by a line of police cars and a limo in the middle of the line.
Everyone was buzzing about who it might have been.
There was a possibility that we just got passed by the President and that was mind-blowing.
Abe parked our bus and we began our 30 minute walk to the Mall.
It felt quite chilly but we knew it could have been colder so we were all thankful.
We were almost done walking and we turned a corner to a madhouse of people.
There were people everywhere, yelling about selling things and trying to navigate the crowds just like us.
There was a thin layer of panic in everyone’s minds that they would get lost in this crowd of people.
However, we quickly suppressed that fear and powered through.
We had to get a great spot!
When we reached the Mall, some kids wanted to spend more time at the Smithsonian since we were right there.
They branched off and the Inauguration crowd had a small worry that we wouldn’t see them until the end of the day.
They were with the Iowa kids, however, so we started into the crowd.
We weaved through all the people and tried to get as close as we possibly could while still staying comfortable.
We eventually did reach a good spot and everyone sat down.
This was it.
This was the spot where we would watch the Inauguration.
We could see the Capitol and the seating up there but the camera stand was right in front of the podium.
If it weren’t for the Jumbo-trons, we wouldn’t have been able to see the Swearing-In ceremony at all!
There was a good two hours until the ceremonies officially began so played games and took pictures of the commotion.
As time went on, people surrounded us and things got a little bit more compact.
This meant that the ceremonies were closer.
In a matter of minutes, we would be able to see the Swearing-In of the President (sort of).
Every-so-often the big screens would show a limo driving up and people would get out.
It was some Congressman or Senator and I couldn’t help but feel bad for them. Very few people in the crowd recognized them. However, everyone started yelling and clapping when a limo pulls up and out steps Jimmy Carter. Ten minutes later, out steps Bill Clinton with Hillary. I stood on my tip-toes and looked down at the Capitol. I couldn’t believe that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were walking down where I could see. We were within a mile of them!
Everything got quiet as we waited for the President. His two daughters walked out and the crowd got tense with anticipation. Then, Obama began to walk up to the Capitol and the crowd just absolutely erupted. We all couldn’t help but cheer and take pictures of everything because we were witnessing history. People were watching it at home on their TVs and we were basically watching it in person. Before we knew it, Mr. Biden was getting sworn in and Mr. Obama was getting sworn in. Everyone around was yelling and jumping up and down. All got quiet for his speech and I think that it might have been what some people in the crowd wanted to hear.
What happened afterwards was sort of a blur. We all started moving out of the crowds before everyone started moving. We did stop to listen to Beyoncé sing. Our group had the biggest smiles because we could hear her singing, and it was so touching and beautiful (lip-synched or not!). We kept on moving and observed the humongous crowds of people; we decided to find some food after meeting up with the people that branched off earlier.
We went into the American History Museum but quickly escaped after almost getting trampled on the escalator. There were so many people there, it was hard to know what really happened but we agreed on more monuments sight-seeing instead. It was hardly a loss in the long run. When your second choice is the Washington Monument and the Reflection Pool, you know you’re living a wonderful life.
We walked and walked and eventually made it to the charter bus. If we thought we were tired in the days before, we knew we were tired now. Our feet hurt and we were all hungry. Our World Strides rep told us that we may be tired now, but when we wake up on Tuesday we will think “I went to the 2013 Inauguration!” and we will be awe-struck. At that point, however, everyone just wanted to go eat dinner at Fuddrucker’s.
Tuesday, January 22
It seemed like everyone woke up relatively well rested but there was a small sadness in the group. It was our last day in D.C. and we had been having a blast. We ate breakfast in the hotel and then ventured out to Arlington Cemetery in the cold, cold weather. I was so thankful that the coldest day was Tuesday and not Monday, but I would have preferred no cold day at all.
We walked through Arlington and reached the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We watched the Changing of the Guards Ceremony. Anna Runck’s friend, Lieutenant Skywalker, is a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and he told us about what it’s truly like. We were all bundled up and he was standing there in a windbreaker. It goes to show what twenty-six hour days and one-two hour shifts in the frigid air will do to you!
We walked to JFK’s tomb and it was a very surreal experience. It was difficult to imagine that I was standing right in front of JFK’s tomb, so I took a picture for when I can process it easier later. The Eternal Flame was quite metaphoric and it is something that will stay in my mind forever.
We boarded the bus and got ready to stand in line for the National Archives in twenty degree weather for ninety minutes. In comparison to the weather we had been having there, it seemed just terrible. Once again, I was thankful for that cold weather staying away from Monday. Once we got inside, some people rushed up to the look at the National Archives and others went down to the Café to warm up. I was one of the ones that went to warm up, but from what I heard, the National Archives was awesome. Seeing the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence in person is something they’ll never forget. I hope to see it in the future (maybe when it’s warm!).
After the National Archives, we went back to the Reflecting Pool one last time for some pictures. It was difficult to believe how much we packed into four days. Everyone was exhausted yet somehow photogenic. We all smiled and took a brief moment to remember the truly wonderful trip we just took and how lucky we all are. I think on the plane ride home we all took a moment to thank our parents, grandparents, whoever paid for our trips. We thanked Mr. Schacht for being a truly wonderful chaperone and multiplying the worth of the trip. We even thanked Abe, our bus driver, for reminding us that we were there to learn and become inspired. Finally, we thanked each other because without our positivity and friendliness, I know we wouldn’t have had such a great time with each other. It will be a trip that none of us will ever forget.