A Memorial View of Washington D.C.

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Culture Washington DC the Mall

Published on May 27th, 2013 | by Charu Suri

2 A Memorial View of Washington D.C.

The sun blazed on Washington D.C.’s popular Mall, as though it had perfected its job description for our walk. We strolled past some uber-famous Smithsonian Museums that were still free of charge, despite all the talk of sequestration. The slender creamy Washington monument was shrouded in neat, rigid scaffolding.

We were there to celebrate my very first Mother’s Day with baby Erika, who seemed contented, calm but excited to see the ducks swimming on the steel grayish reflecting pool between Lincoln and Washington’s monuments. Birds were having sparkling conversations that we could not understand, and even though the cherry blossoms had arrived and gone, everything was greener than green! But because we had seen so many Memorial Parks along our walk, all I could think of was the commemorative aspect of Washington D.C. rather than the cultural one.

Erika and Charu Mother's Day

Erika and I have a moment on Mother’s Day

Washington D.C. offers a depth of perspective that is hard to match when compared to other cities. New York has its World Trade Memorial and Paris its Arc de Triomphe, but Washington’s entire Mall is not just about showcasing the best of American art and culture; rather, it’s about preserving the memory of service. It’s also hard not to gawk at the sheer amount of information densely packed into these 19 museums, which represent the world’s largest museum and research complex.

Here are three “Memorial” gems to see on the Mall, particularly if you are pressed for time as we were (you can easily do all these within a few hours, plus take in at least one Smithsonian museum):

  Washington DC the Mall

The popular and iconic “Mall”

Lincoln Memorial Washington DC

The statue of Lincoln, along with that of Jefferson, is 19 feet tall. The number 19 plays an important role on the Mall

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Koren War Veterans Memorial shows 19 stainless steel soldiers in the middle of action

World War II Memorial Washington DC

National World War II Memorial

Our first Memorial Park stop was the National World War II Memorial which honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces in the U.S. Fountains bubbled like champagne from every corner but I knew they were more reflective in nature than celebratory. The only 20th century event commemorated on the National Mall’s central axis, the World War II memorial evokes the map of the world in the way that its pillars divide countries and U.S. States, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the Pacific on the other. The monument is open 24/7, and it is as inspiring as it is reflective, and not unlike the World Trade Center memorial in the way that water plays an important part in remembrance.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

What I loved most about my walk was the Korean War Veterans Memorial, with larger than life stainless steel statues of American Soldiers caught in media res, as though in the middle of the war. Located in the West Potomac Park, the memorial features statues that loom like skyscrapers, and glint in the sun like jewelry. Each figure represents a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces from the Navy to the Army.  19 large stainless steel statues of soldiers in action, designed by Frank Gaylord, capture emotion in metal. This park has a quiet reflecting pool as well, and has beautiful benches that are made for you to sit down and respect the silence.

Lincoln Memorial

Located (unmistakably) on the west end of the National Mall, the impressive Lincoln Memorial designed by Henry Bacon is quite obviously a nod to Greek architecture, with its lanky fluted 36 Doric columns and roof. Carved in four years, the statue stands at 19 feet, and is distinctly different from the Roman style Jefferson Memorial, which is also 19 feet tall.

The Number 19 plays an important role in the memorials on the Washington Mall. Ironically, 19 hijackers took over the planes on 9/11 leading to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and beyond.

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