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Monday, 16 January 2017

Four days in Washington DC. Day 2

This was a monuments and memorials day, a day that was sometimes stirring, at other times sombre and sad. From the hotel we walked to the Washington Monument, the towering obelisk on The National Mall which was completed in the 1880s to commemorate George Washington, the first American President.

A little further on, across 17th Street, is the impressive World War II Memorial which honours the millions who served in the armed forces during the war, the 400,000 who died and all those who supported the war effort at home.

In essence it is composed of 56 pillars (48 of those represent the 48 American states of 1945) which are arranged in a semi-circle around a plaza. A triumphal arch, one bearing the word ‘Atlantic’ and the other ‘Pacific’ stand at each end. There are numerous bas reliefs of war scenes and a Freedom Wall with 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war.

We passed a large group of ex-servicemen visiting the site and there were scores of other people, each with their own thoughts and memories. A long reflecting pool took us to the Lincoln Memorial, built like a Greek temple and commemorating Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the US. The outside was impressive enough but inside is a huge seated sculpture of Lincoln in white marble, peering down at all who gaze upon his face.

Nearby was the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the latter consisting of two walls that form a V-shape, meeting at their highest points but then tapering away at each end. More than 58,000 names of those killed or missing in action are etched on the polished black granite, which makes it a very personal and moving monument.

We then crossed a bridge over the Potomac River into Virginia and made our way to the Arlington National Cemetery where in the beautiful, wooded and undulating grounds, soldiers, generals, admirals and presidents alike are buried. We got hold of a little map and found our way to the graves of President Kennedy and his brother Robert. As a young boy, President Kennedy’s death made a huge impression on me so it was a poignant moment to stand in front of his grave and gaze at the Eternal Flame beside it.

We climbed higher up the hill to Arlington House and from there got a wonderful panoramic view of the low lying city across the Potomac (see the picture in Day 1). Back down the hill we hopped on a blue tour bus which took us past The Pentagon and into the centre. There we changed to a red bus for another short tour, one made even more lively by the sight of three helicopters, flying low towards the White House. We guessed that one of them contained President Obama.

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