by Jordyn Tribus
Our country was founded by colonists who were not afraid to stand up to their oppressors. Since winning our independence in 1776, there have been many heroes who we, as a nation, have praised and others who we have condemned for their actions. Nonetheless, this nation is fortunate for the mistakes and the successes it has created. Being the capital, Washington D.C. is rich in historical knowledge and architecture. As a citizen of The United States, there is nothing more fulfilling to this democracy than visiting our nation’s capital and exploring its many historically rich monuments. On March 9th, 2023, some seniors at Coronado High School were able to accomplish just that in an astonishing five days.
“Sleep is for the weak”, was a very accurate way to describe this day of the trip. After traveling the night before on a red-eye, the students were left to accumulate a sleep of three and a half hours before jumping into Washington D.C.’s history. Almost foretelling the long day ahead, many grabbed their energy drinks and coffee before heading to the hotel. Once all the boring mechanical transportation was done and luggage was safely stored, it was off to the National Archives to perceive the original American documents: Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.
Trotting along the streets of the District of Columbia, the air brushing past the tourists seemed almost crisp with history. It wasn’t long before everyone was face to face with the documents that transformed this country. The delicacy and particularity of the setup were spectacular; even pictures were not allowed. This transportation to the 18th century was short-lived, as a meet and greet with Nevada’s current Senators and Representatives brought the students back to the 21st century. Those interested in government positions were able to get a clearer picture of what it would be like by talking with Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto, Senator Jacky Rosen, and Representative Dina Titus.
After these heartfelt legislative conversations, the judicial branch was awaiting the students’ arrival. Across the way from the Capitol building – and its infamous insurrection steps – stands the Supreme Court. Even though court was not in session, they politely asked that no pictures or videos be taken of the room, yet the opportunity to see the court was beyond incredible. There was a quick stop at the L’Enfant Plaza for a bite to eat, until it was back on the cobblestone streets. After walking for what seemed like six hours straight, a three-hour bike tour was just what the doctor ordered. On this excursion, a tour guide led different sections of the group to visit a couple of the monuments in DC. This relaxing, or somewhat stressful (to some), tour allowed the students to find peace while also experiencing the historical aspects of the district. Biking allowed for the most delightful and efficient way to see the sporadic monuments: Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, and Smithsonian Castle. This action-packed day left the group longing for sleep. Returning to the hotel, it was lights out almost immediately.
“My favorite experience was the bike tour,” senior Joanne Lee said. “I really liked it because I got to ride around some of the most important monuments. Although I panicked about not having ridden a bike for years, it was the best time ever to get to see the landmarks of this country.”
Wake-up time seemed to come closer than anticipated, and the time change didn’t help. The group was restricted to only bringing their person to the White House tour; almost like a stricter TSA check. There were past presidents’ photos on the walls, and the rooms were lined up in an elegant way, depicting different colors for each room. Once finished viewing the Presidential headquarters, the trip advanced to the 555-foot-tall building, the Washington Monument. The students were able to explore the district from above, viewing the North, East, South, and West sides of the overlooking building, along with the stones on the inside. States and organizations are able to donate stones that can be placed inside the monument’s walls.
Just outside the tallest standing steel-free building, are an arrangement of unique and vibrant food trucks. Time was spent munching on these street foods before heading to the American History Museum. This three-story building contained everything ever established in America; there were inventions, machinery, clothes, sports, food, ect. While this museum has a plethora of subsections, the most prominent ones are the flag that Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner after and the First Ladies’ dresses. The American Flag is a dark room, separate from all other items. It was prohibited to take pictures in this room; however, everywhere else was fair game for a photoshoot. Once inspecting every inch of this museum, a more calming, artistic scene was needed and the National Portrait Gallery was just the place. This art-filled gallery included a section for the Presidential portraits. A tranquil setting was just what the group needed before dinner and sleep.
“I cherished my time spent in the National Portrait Gallery,” senior Julian Rivera-Gonzalez said. “Seeing the creative freedom of expression allowed me to peer into the eyes of humanity with a different lens. Looking at the presidential portraits was a great way to commemorate them as well.”
Nothing like another hotel breakfast to start the day off right. The first stop of this day was the African American History and Culture Museum. This museum was arguably the most moving and heart-wrenching of all the visits on the trip. Being newly built, the structure of the museum was breathtaking with its intricate geometric detail. Different levels went into differing aspects of African-American culture and oppression. The top floors focused more on the civil rights movement and culture, while the bottom floor (sub-sectioned into three parts) fixated on slavery, freedom, and change. This homage to the African-American community is beyond remarkable.
A little soul food was on the menu for the students, and then it was off to the Natural History Museum to live out their Night of the Museum dreams. There were mammals, aquatic creatures, bones, insects, neanderthals, and gems; at the center of it all was a giant elephant – not a mammoth. To balance out the sight of mammals, a stop to view vegetation was requested and answered. The Botanical Gardens were a pleasant sight to behold. A humid tropical climate consisted of a majority of the greenhouse, but there were still areas with a desert climate door and an agricultural (garden) climate. After exhausting the flora and fauna of Washington D.C., it was time to visit more memorials. The Vietnam Memorial, Einstein Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial were all a part of this journey. Respects and prayers were made at each memorial for those who lost their lives defending our nation.
After a quick pit stop at Chevy’s for dinner, the Pentagon Memorial was the last observation. In its simplicity, it was extremely powerful. This memorial consisted of benches in the shape of a curve to represent those who lost their lives in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. If you were able to read the name and see the sky, it means that the victim died in the plane. If you were able to read the name and see the Pentagon, it means that the victim died in the Pentagon. The placement of the benches was in order of birthdates; starting with the youngest – a three-year-old – and ending with the oldest – a seventy-one-year-old.
“I really enjoyed the African-American History Museum,” senior Marie Picini said. “I had never been there before and I learned so much. It was great to see pieces of the history that I have studied my whole life. I also truly enjoyed the culture sections of the museum, especially the music artifacts.”
Almost as if it were groundhog day, the same morning routine occurred: get dressed, eat hotel breakfast, gather everyone downstairs, start the trek to the metro. Hitting the ground hard with emotions was the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Upon arrival, everyone is given an identification card of a person who experienced the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. This museum expressed the cruelty of the Nazis- from killing disabled citizens to forcing Jewish people into concentration camps. The depth to which this museum went was extreme and truly eye-opening to view the horrors at their fullest scale. After these devastating images were finished, the place where our 16th President was assassinated followed. Ford’s Theater was a pure landmark. Inside the theater, where Abraham Lincoln sat, was a shrine for the late President, equipped with the American flag at that time and the current flag. Across the street is the place where Lincoln actually died. It was a narrow house that contained the waiting room with the generals and the room where he passed away.
Succeeding the theater was the Air and Space Museum. Unfortunately, half of the building was under construction, including the Amelia Earheart section. With that said, the planets, the Wright brother’s original plane, Apollo missions, and many other mechanical transportations were able to be explored. A pizza dinner came soon after this museum, but the night was not over. A nighttime bus tour was scheduled to transport the students to the Iwo Jima Memorial, Jefferson’s Memorial, and Lincoln’s Memorial. Each stop gave the students a significant amount of time to embrace the memorials. Many found the once-in-a-lifetime empty reflecting pool to be the best scenery for photos. Once everyone became exhausted, the bus drove back to the hotel to allow the students for optimal sleep before their last day.
“I really enjoyed the night bus tour because it gave a whole different perspective on all the monuments that we saw on the previous days,” senior Taj Garza said. “The Air and Space Museum was my favorite of all the museums because I am a huge space nerd and to see all the original space crafts that went on the moon was so cool.”
Bittersweet feelings began to emerge as the students packed their luggage at the start of the last day. There was no time to dwell because the trip was not over just yet. A visit to the Arlington National Cemetery was the early morning stop. Seeing John F. Kennedy and previously passed Supreme Court Ruth Bader Gingsburg’s headstones were the first destinations. Next was the changing of the guard for the tomb of the unknown soldier.
In this cemetery were also the recognitions of mass on the U.S.S. Maine Ship and the Challenger explosion, among many other great officers. The very last event on this jam-packed trip was a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building. This tour was short and sweet because of time constraints. Information about the building and exquisite artifacts inside the building was given by enthusiastic tour guides.
In the blink of an eye, the adventure was over and the students were on the next plane home. After averaging 12,000 steps each day, a long sitting trip home was right up the students’ alleys.
“I was very pleased with this year’s Washington D.C. trip,” AP government teacher Mr. Guisto said. “It was very nice to see our students get up close to some of the things they have learned about through the years. I hope that they had a good experience even though I made them do quite a bit of walking.”