It was Memorial Day Eve in DC and for some reason I had an interest in joining the mobs on the West Lawn of the Capitol for the annual holiday concert.
My friend Joyce who was visiting from Queensbury was a good sport about it, and we waited in line to go through the security checkpoint to get onto the grounds and then walked up the steps of the Capitol to get an overview from up there.
We had a couple of hours to wait for the concert to begin, giving us plenty of time to people watch (and in Joyce’s case, bird watch, too).
The program was way too nationalistic for my tastes, with an opening nod to the killing of Osama bin Laden and references to the 9/11 atrocities and our “enemies.” There was the obligatory singing of God Bless America near the beginning and recognition of military personnel in the audience.
But there is something about being with thousands of other people paying tribute to our country and the men and women who have died or been seriously wounded — both physically and mentally — that becomes moving. And while the traditional patriotic songs don’t get to me much, I have to admit to being touched every time by Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American
A couple of actors read the words of soldiers seriously injured in Iraq and an actress read the words of a mother who lost her son to the war. As we were leaving, a bit early to avoid the mobs at the Metro, another actress was reading the words of a woman who years after her father’s death in Vietnam returned to that country with a buddy of her father’s to get a better understanding of who he was and what he had done there.
BB King was the big hit for me, as he got the place rocking and singing a refrain about peace over and over again.
And it was beautiful seeing darkness descend and the lights on the Capitol illuminate the columns, pots of palm trees near where we were sitting and the fountain down below. A true DC moment.