Watching Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall is a bucket list sort of thing for some people. It sounded like an adventure to us too, but one we didn't end up checking off.
We'd been watching news reports all week that predicted terrorist attacks somewhere in the US on the Fourth of July. Just the night before, I heard a man on CNN say, "I won't be at all surprised if come Monday, we are talking about an attack that has taken place over the weekend." I will admit to feeling a bit uneasy as we left our hotel room on that rainy morning.
In preparing for our DC trip, I contacted our senator to arrange tickets for tours of the US Capitol and the White House. I submitted the dates we would be in town and then we waited to be given our tour assignment. Just three weeks before we left on the trip, we were given our tickets by the senator's office. Our tour of the capitol was scheduled for 10:10 on Independence Day. This wasn't my first choice since I knew it might interfere with some of the other holiday events that were taking place, but you take what you can get.
We were denied tickets for a White House tour. (Evidently those are extremely hard to come by and even though I requested them well in advance, we just weren't among the lucky ones.)
After the tour, when the rain had cleared.
The scaffolding surrounding the capitol's rotunda was a disappointing eyesore. Some time ago, it was discovered that there were numerous cracks that were in dire need of repair. We learned that this project has been, and will continue to be, going on for quite some time.
The capitol tour is short, but well done. It begins with an orientation film and then the group is split up among a number of guides. Since multiple tours are conducted simultaneously, each person is given a headset, which makes it very easy to hear your assigned guide.
The "donut"--as it has been affectionately named by those who work in the building--on the ceiling, evidently protects visitors from falling debris while repairs are being made.
The Apotheosis of Washington, painted on the ceiling and symbolizing our first president having achieved the status of a god, can still be seen peeking through the donut's center.
Each state is allowed to contribute two statues of people who are considered valuable to their history.
We're from Washington state, but we were obviously fond of Utah's tribute to Brigham Young:
This statue, Statue of Freedom, is an exact-size replica of what is the crowning feature of the capitol's dome:
We enjoyed our tour. After a brief look through the gift shop, we started to walk toward the same doors through which we had entered--where there had been airport-like security. We were stopped from exiting, however, by a rather large group of police officers who were forming a blockade in front of the doors. We wandered around for about 20 minutes before we were guided to an alternative exit--one tourists don't normally use. None of the officers or tour guides were exactly forthcoming with answers to my questions. "Are we safe?" I finally asked. I was assured that we were, but told that a suspicious package was being investigated.
By this time, the holiday parade had begun several blocks away. We walked along the staging area and a few blocks along the route, but the crowd had been well established for quite some time and we decided we just didn't have it in us to search for a spot to insert ourselves among the throngs.
Uncle Sam in staging area.
We decided to visit the White House visitor's center since we weren't able to take a tour. We waited and waited for a bus before we realized that we could walk there faster than if we continued to wait.
Not the real White House. Just a model. (Jon's "clever" caption.)
The visitor's center was interesting and Natalie enjoyed being sworn in as a Deputy US Park Ranger. She earned this "honor" by completing a booklet by finding answers to riddles in the museum.
Since our only previous view of the White House had been from a distance, we decided then, to walk about a half a block to get a closer look. We could see the crowd of tourists ahead, taking their pictures of the President's home and workplace. We were steps away from getting that view when Secret Service stepped in.
"I'm sorry folks, we are closing down this area. You need to turn around and go the other way."
With that we were ushered away from the White House.
We turned the corner to see this vehicle headed in the direction of the White House:
The drivers didn't seem to be in too much of a hurry and one even waived at us, but we were unnerved. We'd been turned away by police officers two times in less than two hours. We didn't feel panicked, but definitely uneasy. We all agreed it was time to call it a day. We were done with walking. Done with crowds. Done with bomb scares. So we made our way to the nearest metro station--which was almost another mile!
I did laundry. The kids and Jon went to the hotel pool. It was nice to be away from the crowd, but it did feel weird not taking advantage of being in DC on the Fourth.
Because the Nationals had a save the night before, our game tickets were each good for one free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Five free chicken sandwiches! We really love Chick-Fil-A. It's even better when it's free.
It was raining quite heavily when we left the shopping mall where we cashed in our game tickets for chicken. None of us liked the idea of returning to the National Mall. Too crowded. Too wet. Possible bombs. But we didn't like the idea of completely missing the fireworks either.
When the rain let up, we decided to view the show from a distance. We hopped on the metro, went to Arlington Park, found a spot on a pedestrian bridge and waited for the fireworks.
The fireworks were far more spectacular than this lame picture, but I'm sure our view was much more lame than being at the National Mall and hearing the Overture of 1812 accompanying the explosions.
So did we really experience DC on the Fourth? Not really. We did it all from a distance. Do I regret it? Kinda. Was it still a good holiday? Yes!