By Jenny Katz
The early morning air had a chill, even for New York. At 5:30 AM, I dragged myself out of bed, still fuzzy with sleep but bubbling with excitement. Today was the day we’d venture from the Big Apple to Washington, D.C., an eagerly awaited family trip. My parents had promised me this adventure after I aced my history exams, and now, the day had arrived.
We converged in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the streets just beginning to rumble to life. Apart from us, several families and solo travelers huddled together, sharing the same anticipation. My younger sister clung to my mom, half-asleep, while Dad double-checked our tickets.
The bus ride itself felt like an adventure. Sitting next to the window, I watched the skyscrapers of New York morph into the vast stretches of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Families chatted, children giggled, and the buzz of multiple languages filled the air. There was the gentle hum of Portuguese, the musical notes of French, and the rhythmic cadence of Japanese. It was like a mini globe on wheels.
Our guide, Iris, greeted us upon arrival with an enthusiasm that instantly perked everyone up. “Welcome to the political heart of our country,” she declared. A few steps away, another guide, with a more serious demeanor, began his rendition. I grinned, glad we got Iris.
Arlington National Cemetery was our first halt. Standing before the JFK’s gravesite, surrounded by rows of white headstones, was a humbling experience. It was a place of reverence, of stories etched in time.
The iconic structures of Capitol Hill followed. With Iris’ vivid storytelling, the White House, Capitol, and Senate seemed to come alive, echoing with tales of political strategies and historical moments. As my family and I gazed up at the White House, Dad whispered about dreams and possibilities, making me wonder if one day I could make a difference too.
No trip to D.C. is complete without the Smithsonian. While my sister gawked at the shimmering Hope Diamond, I was captivated by the towering dinosaurs and age-old fossils, each with a tale from eons ago.
The Lincoln Memorial was an emotional experience. Seated on its steps, looking out over the Reflecting Pool, I could almost hear the echoes of Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words. The war memorials spoke of sacrifices and stories of valor, reminding us of the cost of freedom.
As the day drew to an end, our group shared their experiences. One traveler spoke of how it was their dream to visit D.C., while a family from Japan hoped to come back for a more extended stay. Amid the shared stories, the feeling was mutual – the day had been incredible.
The bus ride back was quieter, with most immersed in their thoughts or taking a well-deserved nap. As the New York skyline appeared on the horizon, I felt a rush of gratitude. The trip had been more than just sightseeing; it was about shared experiences, understanding history, and making memories with my family.
And while the day had its moments of rush, and some might argue for a longer stay, for a 12-year-old history buff on his first expedition to the capital, it was the perfect blend of learning, exploration, and family bonding.