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Tomorrow our 44th president will be inaugurated in front of millions, some there in person while others watch online or on television. And while I won't be able to see this historic event happen in person, I don't feel too bad for not being there, since as a high-school student, I attended President George W. Bush's first inauguration.
My high-school group arrived in the early-morning hours at our motel in Alexandria, Va., and headed to D.C. after only a few hours of rest. When we got to the Capitol building, there were already thousands of people waiting to see Bush become our next president.
While I don't remember too much about the inauguration itself (I was preoccupied with making sure my hands didn't suffer frostbite), I do remember seeing Secret Service agents on top of buildings watching the crowd, ready to make a move should they need to.
That was the extent of my inauguration experience, standing in the cold for a few hours while Bush and others gave speeches. And while that was a good experience, it's the time I spent touring our nation's capital that I remember most.
For the rest of the week we split up into smaller groups to tour the capital on our own. I stepped into history at Ford's Theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and saw where I measured up to the 16th president, literally.
There is a life-size picture of Lincoln along with a ruler on the wall where you can see how tall you are compared to him. I'm only 5 foot, 61⁄2 inches tall (yes, the half-inch is very important when you're barely taller than your sister and just shorter than your brother) so I was, of course, shorter than Lincoln.
I came face to face with the horrific events of World War II at the Holocaust Museum. It took my breath away to see the pictures of what was done to people just because they were Jewish, homosexual or didn't fit Nazi ideals of "perfection." While I know our world is not perfect and genocide is still happening, I'm glad to know that we are (slowly) beginning to accept that our country and world are made up of many different types of people, religions and beliefs and being different isn't something to be ashamed of.
Unfortunately we were rushed through this museum because we were running late, but I could have spent the entire day reading all of the personal accounts, watching the documentary films and just taking in everything that happened.
I saw the Declaration of Independence in person, the old, yellowed piece of paper that told the king of England that we would no longer take orders from an island on the other side of the Atlantic.
Just a tip for those who go see the document, the security people aren't happy if you try to take a picture near it, even with the flash off. Not that I know from personal experience or anything.
But while I was soaking in all of our nation's history and awed by the beautiful architecture of the National Cathedral and other buildings, there are so many more memories I have of that trip.
During our tour of the Federal Bureau of Investigation building, one of my classmates took a photo in the building even though FBI agents told us not to.
True to their word, an agent confiscated the camera and a few months after the trip, my classmate received the camera back, without the film.
While I still have those memories, I hope to go back to D.C. soon to spend as much time as I want going through each museum and visiting each monument, updating my photo album with new pictures.
It was a great experience and I highly recommend everyone go to Washington D.C., not just during an inauguration but anytime, at least once in their lives, to experience the wonder of our nation's capital.