There is no better place to be on the Fourth of July than in the nation's capital. It was a scorching 96 degrees today in Washington, D.C. but that didn't stop the Vanderbilt cohort from exploring. We looked at monuments, saw a parade, took pictures, visited museums, played an interesting word game, and gawked at the beautiful fireworks show. It was a very fun and eventful day, but it was also surprisingly educational. By the end of the day, I was left with a mixture of confusing feelings, as well as with a profound new view of the world in which we live in.
The day started as it usually does with me and the other Vanderbilt girls waking up and groggily preparing ourselves for the day’s activities. We left our hotel around 11:30 and made our way through the throng of people to various places around the city. Every now and then we would stop to take some pictures by some sort of interesting or intricate monument. At one point we came upon a road that had people lined up on either side of it. Being the curious adolescent that I am, I asked someone what everyone is lined up for. "There is a parade happing here in 45 minutes," a police officer told me without even looking up from the notepad she was writing on. I thanked her and hurried back to my chaperone. When I returned to my cohort, I informed them of the parade and asked if they wanted to see it. They agreed, so we watched a bit of the parade and then headed towards the Holocaust museum. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the emotional strain I felt after we toured the exhibit.
We started by learning about a Jewish boy named Daniel. The exhibit chronicled his life and had replicas of his different homes throughout the years, from the modern home he lived in before the rise of Adolf Hitler, to the concentration camps where his mother and younger sister Erica were murdered. Daniel survived the Holocaust, but thousands of other children, as well as adults, had not.
It was a four story long exhibit. After depicting Daniel's life, it showed several different stories of the Holocaust. One short film clip described it as "an entire school vanishing every day for 8 years." No Jewish soul was spared; not even young children. Their lives would end even before it began. I saw the faces of young girls my age who were murdered before they were even married. I saw the blue striped pajamas the Jewish people were forced to wear, and saw various videos of concentration camps. After a while, it became too much for me and I had to take a break from the exhibit.
I found a vacant bench in the corner of one exhibit and planted myself there as I reflected on what I had just seen. I never realized how incredibly fortunate I am to live in a land where I am not persecuted for my race. I could not fathom going through what the Jewish people of Nazi Germany went through under Hitler's hand. What's worse is that genocide still continues today in parts of Africa, Israel, and other parts of the world. It made me question the nature of men and evil and hate in the world we live in. However, after visiting the Smithsonian Museum I started to believe in the beauty of the world again.
We watched a show called Journey to the Stars. It was a short documentary on the history of the sun and the stars. I was much too mesmerized by the magnificent pictures to properly listen to the facts, but I remember thinking how beautiful and interesting space is. It made me curious about the history and fate of the world.
After visiting the museums, we walked to the National Mall and found a place to watch the fireworks. Sweat glistened on our foreheads, our clothes clung to our bodies, and our legs ached from walking, so we decided to just rest for two hours until the fireworks began. To pass the time, we played a fun little game Hannah introduced us to.