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Friday, October 9, 2015

A Monumental Journey Across Washington, D.C.


Tony Arceo shouldn't have even been there that summer morning between my 7th and 8th grade years. A young robber stole a rifle at a pawn shop in neighboring Baldwin Park. The clerk managed to set off a silent alarm and Officer Arceo, from El Monte Police Department, gathered with the other officers outside, responding to a request for help from another police department.

The robber came out, guns blazing, hit Officer Arceo, who was immediately killed. Other officers returned fire, killing the suspect.

Officer Arceo was the first police officer killed in the line of duty in the department's history.



Today, there is a park named in his honor across the street from El Monte High School.

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We're here at the Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial in Washington, D.C., looking for Officer Arceo's name. It doesn't help matters that I first think his last name is "Arcero" and that I don't know that Tony was his middle name. He's listed under "Manuel" but we eventually find him in the locator book located at the end of the memorial where slips of paper and pencils are provided.



It takes us a few minutes to pick out his name from the thousands that are engraved here but we do find it and Letty takes a rubbing of it with the slip of paper.

Sitting directly over the Metro stop where we exited, this is our first stop on a day full of monument and museum touring here in the nation's capital.

We've been to DC before and it's been exhausting. There is so much to see and do here, you can go nonstop for a week without making much more than a dent on the surface. This time, we've set aside one day for monument and museum hopping, trying to see new things that we haven't seen before.

That means we'll try to avoid the stuff we've already seen...no Capitol Building, White House, Natural History Museum, Washington Monument, and more...but there will be a couple of revisits along the way.

A colleague at work suggests the Spy Museum is a must so we trundle up the street to see that.



It seems more like an amusement park attraction than a museum. A lot of stuff here is from the world of fantasy, especially from the works of Ian Fleming.  A lot of movie props from the 007 series are on display here. Cars from the movies, costumes, and other props.



There are some interesting real life spy items on display here like poison tipped umbrellas, invisible ink, tiny cameras, and listening devices.  I'm not sure is justifies the over $20 admission to get in, though. They also won't let us record video so it's on to other interesting DC sights.


A short walk away, we cross the Capitol Mall which is undergoing a massive renovation and is a giant construction zone. This displeases my wife but we continue on.



The next stop is the world's most popular museum, the National Air and Space Museum. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, this one is a rerun for us, too, but it's always a worthwhile stop.



Tim was only a little beyond being a toddler last time we were here so it's nice to show him such iconic craft as the Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright Brothers Flyer.



They're also building a new exhibit in the lobby where a barely acknowledged space capsule that carried Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in the Apollo 11 mission sits almost unnoticed in the corner.


Next up is another rerun, Ford's Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was shot.  It's different than two decades ago. The basement museum has been completely redone to the point that I can't find anything that used to be there. Not sure that's an improvement.

You also need a ticket to get in, now. These are free and available at the counter. I don't know what good they do since we were there at the height of the tourist season and after getting them were told to go right in.


You can see the blood-stained pillow that the president laid his head on as he breathed his last, though (see below).





The theater itself hasn't changed much, if at all, in the intervening years since our last visit. It's still a somber place to think of the history-changing pull of a trigger that happened up in that flag draped box.  Wheelchairs can't get past the last row in the auditorium but can still see the box from there.



Across the street sits the Petersen House where the mortally wounded president was taken to. You'll be glad to know that three years ago an elevator was installed allowed wheelchairs access to all areas of this part of the site.

First, we take in the room where officials drafted a letter to Andrew Johnson, preparing him to take the oath of office. Even if the president had somehow managed to survive, the damage to his brain would have been so extensive as to render him unable to continue in office.



Across the hall is the room where Mr. Lincoln expired.  We're told the bed is not the same one but the bedding and pillows are original.

The Metro takes us over to George Washington University where we plan to walk along the river back to the Lincoln Monument. There's another, extremely historic, site here that sits unmarked and unnoticed by most. It's massive, though.

Several large, curving apartment and office buildings sit on this parcel next to the Lincoln Center.  The name, Watergate, gave us a suffix that forever means corruption and cover-ups.



A small breakin here led to the larger cover-up of the crimes of people in the Nixon administration.  It would lead to that president's downfall and resignation, triggering one of the biggest crisis in our nation's history.

From the back of the property, it's a long hot walk along the river to the end of the Mall where the Lincoln Monument sits.  Hordes of tourists clamber over the marble steps of this tribute to our 16th president.



Elevators take us up to the statue hall but the best part is escaping the crowds by going back out and to the back porch of the building.

Pushing on, we come across the city's newest monument, this one in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's supposed to be a chunk removed from a mountain (a 'mountain of despair') with Dr. King's image in relief on the front of it.



Some people here are saying it's not a good likeness. It commands a great view over the tidal basing, looking across to the Jefferson Memorial.

It's striking and a ranger is on hand to provide more background information on Dr. King and his life but I think we learned more about the man and his struggle at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  Of course, we had much more time there to soak it in.

The visitor's center, gift shop, and bathrooms here are also a great place to relax, charge your batteries, and get ready for the next part of our exploration.



Around the edge of the basin, on a sometimes treacherous path for the wheelchair, we come around to the massive Frankin Delano Roosevelt memorial that seems to stretch on forever.



Waterfalls commemorate the TVA, bas reliefs the depression, and the large statue of FDR...not in a wheelchair, by the way...are some of the highlights here.



At last, we come upon the Thomas Jefferson Memorial where a statue of the man looks longingly towards the White House.  We're spent so it's nice that this memorial lacks the crowds of the more popular Lincoln Memorial.



We read some of his writings engraved on the walls before calling it a day.  The DC Circulator bus picks us up out front and takes us to Union Station.

Dinner is here, expensive but not that memorable, then it's back on the Metro to chill and relax after this very long day of exploring this city.

Darryl
Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
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