Believing a proper sightseeing trip to Washington, D.C., demanded at least one visit to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, Brandon, Elijah, and I–recently acquainted and co-adventurers of necessity–put these two sights on our Saturday itinerary. While the weather was warm in the morning and at midday, by the afternoon the skies had become cloudy.
Drops of rain began to fall as we drew close to the Washington Monument, but we pressed on, and after getting several close-ups of the Washington Monument we saw our next destination in the distance:
Crossing a field, we found shelter beneath the trees along the path towards the memorial. As we walked, the rain fell harder and the sky darkened. Soon, the rain fell torrentially and lightning flashed through the sky. Brandon was the only one with an umbrella–Elijah and I were drenched.
And then the hail began – pea to dime-sized balls falling from the sky, most of them landing in the trees but some of them impacting on the ground, and us. I shielded my eyes, figuring the rest of me would probably be all right and hoping my camera was staying dry enough in the camera bag at my side.
It was fortunately, because we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial just as the storm paused. Water gushed down the steps of the memorial as we looked up to see dozens of people beginning to move out from their temporary shelter under building’s roof. Climbing the steps, I snapped a photo of the Washington Monument.
Inside, the lights of the memorial had been switched off temporarily. Wet and cold, we examined the two wings of the memorial—on the left, the words of the Gettysburg Address were inscribed on the wall, and on the right the words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
Elijah ushered us towards the right. “Of the great speeches of history, I put the Sermon on the Mount at the peak,” he said. “But I would put this one in second.”
I felt an echo of familiarity with the words on the wall, but that day, in the dim light of evening, Elijah read the words of the address, words I will never forget.
“Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”
As we discovered shortly, the storm was not past—we were only at intermission in that day’s terrestrial light and effects show: The second act was about to begin. Returning to the subway later in the day, thoroughly soaked, we knew our trip to Washington was not one we would soon forget.