Flames on Marble and Diary Pages

A second day of exploration in the District of Columbia. I woke to the sound of tuxedo cat padding against the bedroom door, and spent the morning eating oatmeal with carob powder spooned over top, next to the fireplace.

We left the house at noon to make our way to the outskirts of the National Mall, walking past the Smithsonian Castle with the Capitol building closer to the horizon line, and nearby sculpture gardens with metal tree branches tangling with the clouded sky.

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The early afternoon featured a trip to a place that I had most hoped to see in travelling to D.C.; The United States Holocaust Memorial.

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We entered the children’s exhibit first, which was constructed from the diary entries of a young boy named David. His diary exists as a book that I would like to read in future.

Guided by his words, we walked though his contructed home and varying cityscapes, reading the changing entries of a boy moving from a comfortable home to a crowded ghetto under constant threat.

We continued into the Hall of Remembrance, with the walls bearing names of concentration camps. Treblinka. Auschwitz-Birkenau. Dachau. Chelmno. The names continued.

The dark marble walls bore the large, heavy letters of death sites for millions of individuals. The central piece was a black marble slab housing collected earth from several concentration and death camps. Perched on the slab was a clear box holding a stark handful of flames. The eternal fire burns in memory.

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“Here lies Earth gathered from death camps, concentration camps, sites of mass executions and ghettos in Nazi occupied Europe. And from cemeteries of American soldiers who fought and died to defeat Nazi Germany.”

We continued onto to view the walls of tiles made by youths to share their thoughts on so much suffering and loss. The straightforward and equally pure wishes of younger generations helped show that the stories will be remembered and passed.

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My friends and I climbed the steps to the archive floor. Locking book-bags away in lockers, we entered a quiet study space where I promptly lost myself in the stacks. I took down tome after tome, leafing through pages that displayed the brutal honesty of human suffering. Quotes, statistics and the clouded photos of bodies and broken spirits.

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I could have stayed in the archives all day, as all topics pertaining to the Holocaust are fascinating to me and I would like to study more in future.

From the Holocaust Memorial my friends and I traveled onto the Library of Congress.

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We deposited our items in the cloakroom before climbing sets of stairs to the Main Reading Room. It was just as I had seen in pictures. Circular rows of desks. Alcoves of books with multiple levels. The vaulted ceiling protecting the statues and names of poets, explorers, scientists, and philosophers.

Our trio became registered Readers in the Reading Room’s adjacent office. I have the photo card in my wallet as proof. Pictures were strongly prohibited.

Within the famed Reading Room, I navigated toward encyclopedias with listings of anatomical studies and nutritional imbalance tests that paralleled my studies in dietetics. This was followed by losing myself in Oregon field guides, where I read up on my distant home state. I even found pages devoted to the history of the Willamette Falls and Blue Heron Paper Mill in one of my favorite towns on this Earth: Oregon City.

We wandered the the Library of Congress until the main library’s closing, walking back to the metro station in brisk winds hinting at evening snow. Our steps took us through Union Station, marking my first glimpse of an elaborate hub of business and noise that rivals the foot traffic of any airport. From there we journeyed back to Spring Station to return to our AirBNB home.

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Our night ended with blocks of chocolate dipped in jars of peanut butter, gummy worms, and a laptop viewing of “Girls Night” from two mattresses smothered in pillows.

A second day of spring break well spent.

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