Monday, July 30, 2007

A Fourth of July I Will Never Forget

A pretty amazing, true story about what happened to me this July 4th in DC. Already posted on the face, here it is for the world to enjoy.

Today was my first Independence Day in Washington DC, and it leaves me with a wonderful story to tell. This afternoon, David and I set out for a day on the National Mall, to take part in the many festivities going on there. We arrived by the capitol in the early afternoon, and by 4:15 had made our way to a stage set up between the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool, where the Navy Band was giving a performance. We sat down to enjoy the show around 4:15 with Kate, a coworker from my office, until the performance was cut short at 5:00, with an announcement that heavy thunderstorms were moving into the area, and the entire mall was to be closed. All were advised to find shelter in various museums and government agencies until the storm passed.

David and I set out for Independence Avenue, and soon found ourselves sitting in the lobby of the Holocaust Museum, of all places. There we sat for a good twenty minutes folding paper cranes while people continued to gather in the hall. Suddenly, there was an announcement; all were glad to hear that we were being moved from the hard stone floor of the lobby to the two theaters in the building, where we could more comfortably- and safely- wait out what had quickly turned from a thunderstorm to a tornado warning.

Soon we were sitting among around 500 people in the largest auditorium in the Holocaust Museum. At the front of the room, a young woman on the museum staff led the visitors inside with a firm voice, and then proceeded to answer questions from the audience (about anything but the weather). As Dave and I sat in one of the back rows, I had an idea: wouldn’t it be fun for all of us to seize the spirit of the day and sing some patriotic songs together? It seemed like a fanciful idea, but David prodded me on. “Just go up to the lady at the front of the room and ask her. You can do it.” I thought, what the hell. It’s the Fourth of July. We should be celebrating! After a few more moments of deliberation, I stood up and made my way to the front of the crowded auditorium, where I asked the young woman if I could ask the audience if they would like to be led in song. Before she could give me a firm answer, her boss came into the room, to give everyone more information about the situation and the weather. After six or seven minutes, he made his way out, and I, perched at the bottom of the stairs, stood up to once again lay claim to the stage. “Sure,” she said, “go ahead. Just don’t expect me to get involved.”

So I hopped up on the stage, introduced myself to the audience, and asked them if they would like to join me in a few patriotic songs to celebrate our country on this Independence Day. With smiles and voices of assent, the crowd cheered me on, as I led them in a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.” Following that, I polled the audience, and suggestions from the crowd had us singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” (twice!) and “America the Beautiful.” Then, I had a simple idea; how about singing our National Anthem? With loud exclamations of approval, I asked the crowd to stand and remove their hats, and invited anyone with an American flag to join me up on the stage. As hundreds came to their feet, about a dozen individuals- older women, fathers, children- joined me up on the stage with their flags waving. Together, we put our hands on our hearts and sang a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.

With the song over, I thanked the crowd, took a polite bow, and made my way back up to my seat in the back next to David. A security guard came over and asked me for my name and address so the Museum could send me a thank you note. We left shortly thereafter- the storm cleared up, and we ended up enjoying a most magnificent fireworks show in front of the reflecting pool- but for the rest of the day, I could not get the smile off my face, nor will I ever forget the wonderful opportunity I took to turn frustration into celebration this July 4th in the Holocaust Museum.

1 comment:

Emily said...

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