A Last Minute Decision To Visit Our Nation’s Capitol
As a citizen of the United States, I watched with horror and sadness at the insurrection that resulted in the loss of life and desecration of our Nation’s Capitol in Washington DC two weeks ago. And for the past year I watched my Nation suffer from the Covid-19 virus which caused over 400,00 deaths. Difficult times these are. In November our Nation elected a new President and an inauguration was scheduled on January 20. Threats of violence and the pandemic caused officials to advise people not to visit the city for this event. Having visited many dangerous countries and cities, I was not concerned about my safety when I considered whether to drive to Washington DC to observe and photograph the inauguration. I did this for the last one four years ago. However, I did not wish to spread Covid-19 virus and this weighed heavily on my mind as I debated with myself whether I should go. I decided, with social distancing, and taking the proper Covid-19 precautions, it would be worth the risk. I wanted to observe, photograph and share the historic events that were about to unfold in our Nation’s Capitol. I think, now, I made the right decision but this is my opinion.
In any event, on Tuesday morning I drove for 3 1/2 miles from my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania and was at my hotel in Northwest Washington DC around noon. A room was available at Viceroy Hotel on Rhode Island Avenue and I checked in and was soon on my way to explore the city I once lived in for three years while in law school.
This was my third Presidential inauguration. I was at President Regan’s while in law school and President Trump’s four years ago. I reflected on those two occasions and my years living in this beautiful city as I walked down 16th Street toward the White House. I remembered having been on this street when I walked past the National Geographic Building. Not much changed in this neighborhood since I walked here many years ago..
It didn’t take me long, however, for me to realize it was not the same city I knew when I was in law school. Around K Street, about four blocks from the White House, I encountered my first evidence of the increased security in the city. A military truck, with a couple of National Guardsmen, in full military gear, was blocking vehicle traffic on 16th Street.
Pedestrians were allowed to continue down 16th Street for about another block so I walked past the National Guardsmen and came to a chain link fence and a checkpoint, one of many I would encounter. I was still somewhat disoriented, apprehensive, and disappointed seeing troops in the street, especially after all of the news reports about threats of violence. I was told this was as close as you could get to the White House or the Mall. I was very sad not be able to access our National Monuments. I inquired whether I could get to Pennsylvania Avenue and was told yes. I walked this Street to the Capitol on my last visit. So I headed east on K Street but the security fencing took me back to L Street.
I had to pass through a checkpoint, where I was searched before being allowed to proceed. However when I got to Pennsylvania Avenue I found access to it was blocked. This time I inquired of some police officers and National Guardsman how to get to the Capitol.
The friendly Guardsmen were unable to help since thy knew nothing about the streets in the city, which was understandable. The police officers told me I couldn’t get there. I explained I wanted to get as close as possible but they were of little help with directions. I still thanked both them. I told the Guardsmen the nation appreciated them for coming to the city and I found them quite friendly. Many were from my home state of Pennsylvania. I also talked with Guardsmen from Alabama, Nebraska, Indiana, Florida and Nevada on my walk. I thanked them for being there and protecting our Nation.
Somewhat frustrated, I headed north again along the fencing and was able head east on H Street. I knew, from my law school days that the Capitol was located near 1st Street and C Street. However, I saw another fence and checkpoint at G Street and 10th Street. It was frustrating especially since either the police officers and secret service did not know or did not want to tell people, the easiest way to the Capitol . I zig and zagged but I continued on.
Persistence I have a lot of so I walked back north to H Street and continued eastward, continuing zigzagging streets with checkpoints along the way. There were almost no tourists in the city, nor many local residents on the streets.
There were a lot of reporters from all over the world. I heard many languages spoken and heard many frustrated reporters, photographers and cameraman asking for directions and access to the press checkpoints allowing them to get into the next level of security. It was confusing. Even with the large number of members of the press, from my observations, there were twice as many police officers, guardsmen, secret service and other security officers.
National Guardsmen manned the access points for the press and employees of the Federal and local governments who were still working. Secret service checked bags and packages of all reporters entering the outer security fence. I was told there were additional layers of fencing inside.
After rounding a corner it is was here where I finally got a glimpse of the Dome of our Nation’s Capitol. I still get goose bumps when I see it as I did the first time on a field trip in the eight grade and the many times I saw it living in here in law school. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk to the Capitol. . Washington DC Inauguration afternoon walk Part One January 19 2021.
This was as close to the Capitol grounds as one could get. Here, I found the largest crowd of people since I began my walk. It was no more than two dozen people many who were reporters. There were a few onlookers in the group, from what I could gather they were here in support of President elect Biden. All wore masks.
It was sad that this was as close as I could get to the Capitol . I remember getting much closer the day before the Trump inauguration when I visited four years ago. I was able to walk up to the steps. You can find photographs of how close I was able to get to the Capitol in this link to my blog post. from that visit. https://keepyoureyespeeled.net/silver-spring-and-washington-d-c-its-been-awhile-a-long-overdo-visit/
After reflecting on the significance this inauguration while gazing our Nation’s Capitol, desecrated and ransacked for the first since 1814, and for the first time by our fellow Americans, I began my long walk back to my hotel.
It was late afternoon , and I took a more direct walk back on L and M streets. I was pleasantly surprised my route took me through Chinatown,
Thankfully none of the violence that was feared occurred. It was a peaceful day, and for that I was glad. I returned to my hotel, ordered Thai food and edited photographs and watched the inauguration coverage for the rest of the evening. I retired early wondering what the Inauguration day would bring to our Nation’s Capitol. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my visit to our Nation’s Capitol. Washington DC Inauguration afternoon walk Part two January 19 2021
America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.- Harry Truman