The east coast earthquake!

Trip Start Aug 19, 2011
Trip End Aug 24, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hampton Inn Waldorf
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Today we got off to a semi-slow start. I was hoping to start the day off at our first destination as it was opening but it's hard when there are other people and kids with you. The initial plan was to hit the zoo until we were done. Then go to Arlington, then back to the National Mall for the remainder of the day. Not quite how it went down thanks to Mother Earth's temper tantrums.

We drove in, and arrived at the National Zoological Park about an hour after it opened. Because of that, the free parking lot was full and we were forced to drive around and look for street parking. We found a place about a 15 min walk from the gate but the thing is, it was 2 hr parking. So...we had to park, go in and enjoy some of the zoo, then Jolene and I had to walk back out and move the car, and do it again. Pain in the ass. Now, I love zoo's. I love animals. But it seems more often than not, I am unsatisfied at these places. The areas are much too big so there's plenty of space for the animals to hide. Great for them, but not for the people who are anxious to see them.

Probably about 30 min or so before we had to head back to move the car for the second time, we were in the small mammals building looking at all the different types of monkey's, meer cats, porcupine's and such, when the whole building began to rumble. Just like in the movies, everything in your vision just moves together. Everyone looked up, froze, glanced at one another to measure everyone elses alarm, and within about 6 seconds, it stopped. We all continued to exchange awkward glances, then everyone went on about what they were doing, passing it off as the metro underneath, construction nearby, or whatever. Even though, inside we all knew it was different. As I said, the whole place rumbled, not just a vibration in the floor. But we'd never been in an actual earthquake so what do we know? Upon leaving the building we overheard talks since we were still uncertain, we then went on-line to learn that we were indeed in an earthquake; 5.9 centered in Mineral, Va. Quite interesting for us, not so much for the rest of the day though.

As a precaution, just in case of aftershocks, virtually every building had closed down. Had we known this we would have taken off immediately, but we did not, so not too much later they closed the zoo and we were forced to leave with everyone else. It took us well over an hour to get to Arlington. The carload was getting cranky. We all knew we'd laugh about this later, but in the moment...we had traveled to see Washington DC. Traffic barely moved, especially through the intersections. Eventually, Jolene cut down some side roads and wound up traveling around most of the traffic (why the locals didn't think of this I do not know) and we finally reached the cemetery, which thankfully was open.

Arlington National Cemetery was much more than I thought it would be. Judging from photos, I was expecting a generally good sized cemetery with hundreds of white headstones. "Generally good sized" is an understatement. This place was as big as a town practically. over 300,000 people laid to rest upon 624 acres to be exact. With roads leading this way and that, the front office even had maps so we could find our way around.

Once in, the entire place was awe-inspiring. Looking over the thousands upon thousands of headstones lined in perfect rows of attention was breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. There were many different types of headstones as well. Some larger ones that no doubt belonged to higher ranks. There was a whole section devoted to women who died in the war as well. I visited the Challenger Memorial, which I remember watching the shuttle explode on TV in 5th grade on January 28, 1986 and doing a number of projects on it so seeing that brought me back to that time. Later I learned that Scobee and Smith are actually buried in Arlington, and unidentified remains of the crew were also buried there beneath the memorial. Beside it is a memorial for the Columbia shuttle that exploded in re-entry in 2003.

Also, there was a memorial to the USS Maine in which the actual mast was on display. The USS Maine, named after the state of Maine, was built in Brooklyn, NY in 1888. In 1898, a mysterious explosion sank the ship off the coast of Havana, Cuba and killed 3 quarters (261 of 355) of the crew. There are numerous monuments on display for the Maine, one in Manhattan (as we've seen) and another in Havana, Cuba. Many other cities have memorials along with pieces of the ship. Amongst them, the shield and scroll work from the bow of the ship, displayed in Bangor, Maine, and a shell from the main battery is located just inside of the Pine St. entrance of city hall in Lewiston, Maine.

It was also nice to see the grave of John F. Kennedy, his wife, Jacqueline, and two of their kids. Behind his plaque was the "Eternal Flame."  The family's final resting place lay in the center of an elliptical plaza that overlooked some of Arlington Cemetery and had a perfect view of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Inscribed within its walls were quotes from various Kennedy speeches. About 50 ft down the terrace was the grave of Robert Kennedy and across from him lay another smaller plaza with a reflecting pool and wall also inscribed with quotes from his speeches. And another 50 ft or so was Ted Kennedy's grave.

Yet another interesting part of our visit was seeing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard. Throughout time, more unknown soldiers were buried here and the tomb has been known as the "Tomb of the Unknowns" but was never officially named. It sits just behind the massive and beautiful Arlington Memorial Amphitheater. The tomb has been perpetually guarded since July 2, 1937. Every half-hour, the ceremony repeats as an officer enters the plaza of the tomb and announced to the public his intentions of changing the guard. Another soldier marches in. Upon checking his weapon, he relinquishes it to the officer. Then the officer inspects the soldiers rifle and hands it back to him. The soldier then marches along side the other soldier, away, turn, then back this way in which the previous guard keeps walking and leaves the plaza. It is very interesting and amazing that the ritual has gone on every half hour for 74 years.

Our original plan was to go back into DC and visit the other memorials and museums but due to the earthquake, they were all closed as well.

Not a completely unsuccessful day.

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