Normally when I visit monuments or historical sites I don’t like having random people in my pictures. Like at Machu Picchu, I want to imagine myself back in history, without all of the other tourists there. I’ll wait for people to pass by, or try to crop shots in a way that cuts them out.
But Saturday I had an entirely different experience, visiting the World War II memorial in Washington DC. We had driven by it two nights earlier on an evening bus tour of the monuments, so I was like, I’ve seen it already but sure, let’s go. There are swarms of people of course, and I thought, well no use trying to get a clear picture of anything here.
But then I started looking at the people, not the monument. And the floodgates opened. All walks of life. Young, old, black, white. So many veterans, some in wheelchairs, others defiantly walking and pushing their own empty wheelchairs. A group of 50+ veterans from Southern Indiana gathered for a group picture in front of the fountains, each holding pictures of themselves when they were young. An incredibly powerful emotional experience.
It’s hard to visit Washington DC without feeling a heightened sense of national pride. Often it’s seeing the monuments that does that for me. This time it was opening my eyes to my fellow Americans. Good reminder to let people in.