Washington, D.C. without Limits MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   "People, you needto back up!" yelled the guards. Now, how was it that I was standing rightnext to the driveway of the White House? My family was on vacation in Washington,D.C. during the summer of 2001. One of the many events we had planned was a tourof the White House. This, and a tour of the Capitol, were experiences I willnever forget.

Early Wednesday morning, my family and I left our hotel andheaded for the subway. I was wearing a new dress; if we were going to tour theWhite House, I figured I should look nice. You never know when you're going tosee the President, right?

We walked a few blocks from our Metro stopbefore the White House came into view. Many people, all with the same intentionof seeing the White House, were already waiting, but luckily we had picked up ourtickets the day before. The only problem was that we had three tickets for thefour of us. My dad was allowed to come with us after showing his police badge andidentification.

On our tour we saw the press conference room, the GreenRoom (where the First Lady hosts visitors), the dining room, and several sittingrooms. The walls of each room hold the history of past presidents. There was evena room that showcased all the china of previous administrations. Little did weknow that as we toured this lower level, the President was getting ready to leavejust a level above us.

As the tour ended and we headed out the frontdoors, we stopped to have our picture taken. I decided to walk around to the backof the White House. We were outside a fence now, but could still see in. Thegardeners were tending the flowers, and it looked so peaceful. I seemed to slipinto my own little world as I listened to the birds chirping.

"Whatwould happen if I took my shoe and threw it over the fence?" my brotherinterrupted my reverie.

My dad responded, "There'd probably be twentySecret Service agents on you in two seconds, and you can bet you wouldn't getyour shoe back." I worried that my brother would take my sandal and throw itover; he would definitely find that entertaining. Thankfully, my sandal stayed onmy foot.

It was then that we noticed men on top of the White House. Theywere dressed in black and had binoculars. My dad noticed limousines and vanslined up at the doors and guessed that someone important was coming or going, sowe decided to stick around. We waited in a little park right outside the fencenext to the driveway. People joined us as security officers started filing out.It had to be the President.

Police on motorcycles came out as the officersinsisted that all tourists stand farther away from the fence and driveway. After15 minutes, all the vehicles started to leave the White House. Everyone in ourlittle park had their cameras ready. There was a large limo followed by a smallerone, and in the back, a man was waving. It was George W. Bush, President of theUnited States. A few people insisted on losing control, screaming, "That'shim! That's him! He waved!" I thought it was pretty exciting, but I wasn'tgoing to get too carried away. I was just happy I had dressedappropriately.

Later we saw on the news that the President had beengoing to a meeting at the Capitol. This just happened to be where we were headedthe next day. We went to our state congressman Gil Gutknecht's office. He beganour tour, but an assistant joined us to finish for him since Mr. Gutknecht had toleave for a vote on the House floor. He got so involved with our tour that he wasalmost late to vote! We were able to go right through security as he took us intoan elevator meant only for the representatives. He was talking extremely fast andshooting out incredible amounts of information; it was amazing how much he knew.Then he took us to see something that few citizens ever have - a chapel in theCapitol where every president has prayed before being inaugurated. I thought thiswas pretty interesting, especially with all the controversy over the separationof church and state. I recall the young assistant saying, "I've been givingtours and working here all summer, and I've never been allowed to see this."Mr. Gutknecht made us feel like very important guests.

We saw many thingsin Washington, D.C., but it's what happened two months after we were there thatgives me the chills. If we went to Washington this summer, we wouldn't be able toexperience it like we did. Right now, because of September 11, tours of the WhiteHouse are only available to school and youth groups, and organized military andveteran groups. I'm sure Mr. Gutknecht is not allowed to give tours like he gaveus, if at all.

The fact that we drove past the Pentagon and walked througha park that the plane flew over before hitting it just two months after we werethere left a huge impact on me. What if we'd been there when the terroristsattacked?

Being able to be inside the White House, see the President just30 feet away, visit a chapel that few even know about, drive by the Pentagon, andjust experience Washington, D.C. and our nation's history without limitations issomething I will never forget. It is disheartening that these places may never beas welcoming. People may never again be able to experience Washington, D.C. likeI did because of the horrifying actions of terrorists.

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Copyright 2006 by Teen Ink, The 21st Century and The Young Authors Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
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