A favorite little book of mine by Christopher Buckley (2003…152 pages) who takes you on a walking tour through Washington D.C..
Each time I pick it up there’s something I missed the last time, like when he strolls along The Tidal Basin, home of the National Mall, how FDR in 1939, laid the cornerstone for the Jefferson Memorial, while Bill Clinton, in 1997, broke ground for FDR’s.
Mr. Lincoln looms large across the Reflecting Pool where in 1963, Martin Luther King gave his I Have a Dream speech, a plaque marking the spot, while his Memorial, dedicated in 2011 by President Barack Obama, joins the Big 3. One imagines the conversations all 4 might have late at night while the moon, along with a slew of sharpshooters, stand vigil.
The mall, at midnight, is considered the safest place in Washington.
Brings me to The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as The Vietnam Wall, never realizing the opposition 21 year-old architect, Maya Lin, encountered with her spare design. All I know is, when you visit, it has the reverence of any great Cathedral, compelling as you read the names while families still remember, leaving birthday cards and letters, Teddy bears and flags, all collected and archived at the end of each day.
Lin’s concept of such simplicity she called, A Rift in the Earth, beginning low becoming raised as the losses increased (58,320), makes you cry.
I also remember a young Jackie Kennedy saving Lafayette Square from the Eisenhower wrecking ball, all set to raze a row of historical homes to build an eyesore of government buildings.
Resting right behind the White House, you can sit in the Park lining the Square, accompanied by majestic statues of Lafayette himself, and President Andrew Jackson whose Magnolia Tree planted in 1835, still blooms on the White House lawn.
At the helm of the Square painted a pale yellow, is St. John’s Episcopal Church built in 1816, where every president starting with James Madison, with the exception of Richard Nixon has worshiped, facing another landmark, the Hay Adams Hotel built upon the site where the homes of Lincoln’s Secretary, John Hay, and Henry Adams, John, our second President’s great grandson, once stood.
A murder even took place in 1859 when Daniel Sickles shot, Philip Barton Key, the son of Star Spangled Banner author, Francis Scott Key, who was canoodling with his Missus. Old Dan, who later served during the Civil War losing his right leg at Gettysburg, was represented by none other than Lincoln’s future Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, who gets him off in our country’s first case of Temporary Insanity.
Chris ends his tour at Arlington where you learn, besides JFK, the only other President buried there is our 27th, William Howard Taft.
You humbly pay tribute to Army Major Marie Therese Rossi-Clayton, the first woman combat officer who died in 1991 at age 32, during Operation Desert Storm.
Below her name, rank and dates it reads:
“In Memory of My Sweet Little Wife, Whose Beauty Could Only Be Outlived by My Love for Her.”
Sure wish Buckley’s book came with a box of Kleenex.
God Bless America 🇱🇷