By Editha G. Bajenting
(About the writer: EGB is a retired regional manager for the government-owned National Dairy Authority in Cebu, Philippines. She now settles as an immigrant in New Jersey with her husband, son, and daughter-in-law. Going through cancer treatment, she optimizes her energy by marveling life as it unfolds and pens it.)
New Jersey – Excited to see the beauty of the cherry blossoms in their peak of bloom, my family drove to Washington D.C. before the break of dawn of April 7, 2019.
Braving a four-hour road trip to the national capital, it was my first time to witness the celebration of friendship forged by the US and Japan through the annual cherry blossom festival.
When we arrived, at around 9 o’clock in the morning, the city was bustling with people very early that morning! Parking spaces near the National Mall were full. Even the National Reagan Building & International Trade Center where a public parking facility was supposed to be available was occupied.
Too bad we missed watching the 10-mile and 5K-run which just ended, just in search of a parking space. The run was organized by the Credit Union Cherry Blossom, which started at 7:30 that morning. Hence the big number of people around.
We learned from random inquiries that there were more than 16,000 adults and children who participated in the run. There was a long queue leading to the National Reagan Building where a public parking area was located, as quite a number of runners in their heatsheets lined up to get back to their cars and head for their respective homes. After we availed of a parking space, we decided to join the rest of the runners who chose to continue their day at the cherry blossoms grounds, having a picnic and taking pictures of the spring flowers in bloom along with their family members and friends.
My husband Bobby, son Karl, and daughter-in-law Janette, also had our share of lovely photo shoots of the pink and white cherry blossoms. For this year, the average peak bloom date where 70% of the flowers of the cherry blossom trees are open was in April 1, according to official sources. The bloom dates vary from year-to-year depending on the weather.
Since it was my first time to witness the event, Karl and Janette also toured me and Bobby around the Tidal Basin but only for as long as my foot allowed me to bear the long walk. We viewed the iconic Washington monument – an obelisk on the National Mall built to commemorate Pres. George Washington, the first US president.
The top of the structure could not yet be accessed as the management is still reportedly completing the modernization of the elevator and the construction of a new security structure at its base.
The World War II Memorial
We joined the hordes of tourists who were slowly coming in in groups – adults of different nationalities, schoolchildren and their teachers, and families – as they trooped to the World War II Memorial.
This is a memorial of national significance dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II. It consists of 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza and a pair of triumphal arches surrounding a square and fountain. The 56 pillars represent the unity of the United States during the war. There is one pillar for each state and territory as well as the District of Colombia.
The Lincoln Memorial and Korean Veterans Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is a Parthenon-inspired structure built to honor Pres. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US president. It houses the 19 ft. marble statue of Lincoln. In front of the building is a reflecting pool.
Since it was getting warmer with temperature climbing up to the upper 60s, we took off our jackets and trekked along with local and foreign tourists to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It is in Washington DC’s West Potomac Park and includes 19 stainless steel statues that depict soldiers on patrol facing an American flag.
The statues represent the different branches of the military: army, air force, navy, and marines. The Memorial is dedicated to members of the armed forces who served and sacrificed during the Korean War.
Rangers on duty were around to answer questions from tourists. They said that when the 1,000-pound statues are reflected on the granite wall, there appears to be 38 soldiers which represents the 38th Parallel which used to divide North and South Korea. Also inscripted on the granite wall were the words ‘FREEDOM IS NOT FREE”. It was explained that this sentiment reflects the struggle and sacrifice of American soldiers in securing the American peoples freedoms when fighting overseas.
A group of Asian tourists placed flower wreaths on the granite wall to honor those who have laid their lives during the three-year conflict.
The White House
Being a cancer survivor still undergoing treatment, I realized I had to prioritize which memorials and sites to visit next to maximize the remaining energy left of me. Thus we chose to proceed to the White House instead.
The official presidential residence and workplace is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW and has been the residence of every U.S. President since John Adams in 1800. We took additional pictures of ourselves in front of the White House as souvenir shots for a newbie tourist in the USA like me, roaming the city streets and historical sites of Washington, D.C.
It was past 3 o’clock in the afternoon when we walked back to the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center where our car was parked. We first proceeded to the building’s food court which provided different food choices for our hungry tummies. And, as our own simple way of celebrating friendship in the family, we had beef teriyaki, baked fish with fries and veggies on the side, buttered chicken, chicken noodle soup, and ice cream for dessert , as this “cherry blossom getaway” was also a pre-birthday celebration for my son, Karl, who was having his birthday the following day.
Since my foot was already aching from the long walks which registered 15,000 steps in my fitbit, we decided to forego seeing the other historical sites with a promise to be back anytime soon. We just a took a quick drive around to see the rest of the city before proceeding home.
The trip back to New Jersey took so much time (almost 6 hours) due to heavy traffic in the Baltimore area. We reached home at 10:30 in the evening, tired but feeling accomplished and educated on the importance of celebrating friendships – be it among individuals or among nations.