It was five days, many sleepless nights, and a whole lot of sightseeing and fun. The trip was a whirlwind, and most of the time we were on our feet from 5AM to 10PM with little to no rest. With such little time, we were still able to visit many of the nation’s greatest tourist attractions. New York was grand and gigantic, with looming skyscrapers as far as the eye could see. On the first night, we visited the top of the Empire State building and I couldn’t believe the magnificent view at the top; it was as if I could see the entire country from up there. The very next day we had the opportunity to go on a boat tour of New York City. The highlight of the tour was the Statue of Liberty, a monument given to the US by the French. Originally, the statue was a beautiful copper color, but wind and sea spray turned it green. It was cool to imagine how it must have looked when it first arrived. It would be really cool to see it restored, if that’s possible. Still, it was an incredible sight to see.

We promptly went to visit the New World Trade Center and the 9/11 memorial. The memorial is a set of two pools, constructed exactly in the formation that the towers once stood. The center of the memorial is a square opening that allows water to fall below. The most emotional part was the three or four white roses placed in the gaps of the letters of the names of those who had perished. It was touching to see that they would continue to be remembered. The interesting thing is, as our tour guide explained, no matter where you stand, you can’t tell where the water goes. This alludes to the fact that we don’t really know where the victims of the attacks went. Oak and sweetgum trees surround the memorial to keep the sounds of traffic at bay while people mourn. The memorial was touching and heartfelt, and for someone who had never seen them, it was a statement to their gravity, and to the city’s. We also visited the underground museum for the attacks, which contained actual relics and artifacts. We saw things like twisted metal beams, broken concrete, and even an entire fire truck that had been nearly destroyed on that day. Seeing the remnants of such a tragic day was a really heavy moment.

The next day, we walked through Central Park. Though it was rainy and cold, visiting Central Park was an amazing experience. We got to see the Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon, and the Alice in Wonderland sculpture which depicts Hans Christian Andersen, a well known author who wrote many fairy tales. We were also lucky enough to see a Broadway show! What we saw that night was School of Rock, a comedy about a man who teaches kids to play in a rock band. The actors were fantastic, and what shocked me was the fact that the kids played their instruments live! The next day, for our last night in NYC, we were turned loose to explore Times Square. I went with a group of friends and visited the M&M’s store, among other shops and places. The lights and people made these memories magical and unforgettable.

DC was where we spent the majority of our trip, and we were moving all day. We visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial, and we also got to see the Arlington National Cemetery. I was able to witness the fabled ‘Changing of the Guard’ at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and it was a humbling experience to be in the presence of so many who had sacrificed so much. We also visited the Smithsonian Museums, and I was fortunate enough to see both the Museum of Natural History and the original Smithsonian Museum. I really enjoyed the ocean exhibit in the Museum of Natural History, and the Hope Diamond, the world’s largest diamond, was a truly incredible sight.

The main reason for the trip was also quite an experience as well. The group attended what can only be called a sparsely-attended inauguration, to see our 45th president. Security was extremely tight, and the line to even get to security was about half a mile long. Once we did get in, however, there were not that many people there. Honestly, the whole thing was a bit underwhelming. Lackluster crowds and endless lines leading up to a not-so spectacular Oath of Office highlighted the inauguration of our 45th President.

One day later, we joined half a million other people in the Women’s March, which I liked much more than the inauguration. The march left an impact on me, because after the election, I felt a little hopeless, and it seemed like the opposition against him was dwindling. But being there with half a million other people who felt the same way I did I got a strange and unfamiliar, but welcome feeling, one I hadn’t felt in a long time- hope.

One of our last stops on the trip was the Newseum. One of the coolest things I saw was a placard of about 80 or so papers from around the country, and apparently the Newseum staff changes those papers out every single day to help people keep up to date and see how viewpoints change throughout our nation. Other attractions in the museum included a piece of the Berlin Wall and a section dedicated to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was my favorite part.

The trip was exciting and relentless at the same time. Sleep and time for homework were sacrificed, but for a life changing experience that I will never forget.