A moment at the monuments

Although apathy toward government is growing daily, and disgust for Congress and the White House swells with each passing administration, for some reason, people still flock to D.C.’s famous monuments.

GW heavily markets its Washington, D.C., location, reminding students that they will be graduating in The City of Presidents. According to the Office of Admissions, applicant pools along with acceptance rates are steadily increasing. Tourism is up too and, much like GW admissions figures, has been climbing for some time.

At the monuments at night, students and visitors congregate at the city’s tributes to the past. Some are attracted to the majesty and splendor of the National Mall. This incredible swath of grass and pools, America’s backyard as some have called it, is bounded on all sides by monuments to some of the men and, in some cases women, who created America and guarded it in war and peace.

Perhaps the best time, or at least the most relaxing and inspirational time, to get the full effect of the monuments, is after the warm late-spring sun has dipped below Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Of course, this is the middle of tourist season – as evidenced by the throngs of confused-looking people crowding Metrorail trains and platforms. Even so, Amanda Quinn, a sophomore at GW, said, It’s peaceful despite the racket (the tourists) make.

In fact, on one recent evening, Quinn was accompanied by two of her friends, also sophomores at GW. The reasons they offered for venturing to the towering Lincoln Memorial as they are swamped with work and studying for finals, varied from making fun of the tourists to taking advantage of being in Washington.

Claire Barnett said of the weather, It’s a nice spring night, while Jennie Yahirun offered a different explanation. Her family has lived in the D.C. area for a number of years, and visiting the Lincoln evokes memories of her childhood days.

(Coming here) brings back memories, she said. Since I used to live here, I would come with friends.

When Quinn and her friends visited the memorial, it was a fairly typical night. Standing near Honest Abe’s feet, the occasional picture flash jarred, while red brake lights illuminated Constitution avenue below. Despite the omnipresence of visitors, a sense of romance crackled in the air.

Michele Gagne, a community relations expert in the Office of the Vice President and Treasurer, was proposed to on the steps of the Lincoln. Her fianc?, Jason, formulated an elaborate plan to surprise Gagne and pop the question. It included an inflatable plastic chair so the two could enjoy an evening together reflecting on their futures in front of the reflecting pool.

The National Park rangers looked on in wonder as Jason pulled the chair out of a bag and proceeded to blow it up by himself, she said. Despite the awkward glances they received. It’s definitely one of the prettiest places in the city.

Amy Bandy, a tourist visiting from Los Angeles with her mother and husband, had a different reason for coming. She and her family had just seen the Korean War Memorial when, in contemplative tones, she began to muse on all the soldiers that gave their lives in all the battles in which the United States has fought.

It fills me with a wonderful combination of pride and deep sorrow, she said. Her husband Joe said it made him think about history and `our group genealogy.’

Whatever the reason is that people are drawn to the beauty of the monuments at night, they come to experience the beauty, the wonder, to marvel and to contemplate. And they always come in droves.

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