(Ed. Note: written by our long-time blog reader Retired Spook…being, ya know, old and stuff it took him a while to catch his breath and write this up…it is so good though, that it is being put out as a separate entry)
We didn’t get home from the Restoring Honor Rally until Sunday evening and we were so beat, we went straight to bed. I had intended to post some observations about the rally yesterday, but the site was down all day. When it finally came back on-line late last night, I caught up on the threads I missed while we were gone, happily noting that a couple other regulars also made it to the rally, but I was still too tired to put some coherent thoughts together, and the thread on the rally was 48 hours old by then anyway.
So here are my thoughts.
It was probably the most spiritually uplifting event that my wife and I ever participated in, and we came away feeling renewed and rededicated to playing our part in making this country a better place.
We were on one of 3 buses that left Fort Wayne, IN, at 9PM Thursday evening, arriving in D.C. about 10AM Friday morning with our first stop at Arlington Cemetery. After an hour and a half stay at Arlington (my first visit since the late 60’s and early 70’s when I was stationed there in the Navy), the bus dropped us off at our hotel (The Mayflower Renaissance on Connecticut Avenue about 4 blocks NW of the White House, and the rest of the day we were free to do whatever. We went out to lunch with two other couples, ending up a couple blocks from the hotel at a unique little local eatery with inside and outside tables, and then, I can’t vouch for what others did, but, after an 13-hour bus trip with stops about every 2-1/2 hours, we went back and took a nap.
We did do some sight-seeing later in the afternoon, and then took another nap. When you younger readers get to be 65, you’ll understand.
We were up around 6:30 on Saturday, and, after breakfast, walked the 8 or 9 blocks down 17th street to the monument area. A couple members of our group went down around 4:30 and saved some choice spots on the north side of the Reflecting Pool about 200 feet straight out from the stage, which was set up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Thousands of people camped out all night in order to get close to the stage.
Neither the speakers nor any aspect of the program were publicized in advance. The event was billed as “non-political”, and the only description ever given about it was that it would be an experience unlike any we’d ever had, and we would come away with a new perspective on life and the future in general. That turned out to be accurate. The overwhelming concern of virtually everyone I talked to is that, for the first time in American history, we are headed toward a time when future generations will experience less prosperity and less freedom than their parents.
If you read any news accounts, (I read at least a dozen yesterday, the NYT and Newsweek being the most despicable) I can almost guarantee that they are not accurate. In fact, that was the one really disconcerting aspect of the whole event — that the media tried to make it something ugly and meaningless, and it was anything but that. You’ll read, for example, that the crowd was largely white and over 45. One of our 3 buses was full of families with children, and I would guess that the overall composition of the crowd reflected that demographic. It was disappointing that there weren’t more African Americans there, but it wasn’t because they weren’t welcome, and I did meet a couple who were exceptionally nice. One in particular was a giant of a guy in a Boston Celtics jersey who walked up and introduced himself.
The one accurate account that I did read later said that, in a crowd that extended nearly a mile from end to end, there were no arrests, and the only incidents that require police intervention were from a couple small groups of Leftist plants who brought some ugly signs up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and were asked to leave.
RedState has the best photos I found showing the size of the crowd as well as the condition in which we left the Mall and monument area after the event. I’ve seen a number of photos of the original crowd at MLK’s I-Have-a-Dream speech in 1963 which was estimated at 200-250,000. There were 2-3 times as many people there last Saturday. Interesting that the 3 alphabet networks estimated the crowd at “tens of thousands”, “87,000 +/- 9,000″ and “around 100,000″.
One of the coolest parts of the entire program was completely unscripted. Because of the location, the organizers were unable to arrange a military flyover, but Mother Nature came to the rescue and, at 9:59 (one minute before the start, and with the music just beginning to play), a large flock of around 30 Canadian Geese banked around the WW2 memorial and flew in perfect V-formation straight down the length of the Reflecting Pool about 30 feet above the water, veering off to the north at the last moment. The crowd went nuts. the only part of the program that got a bigger ovation was Alveda King’s speech.
The program lasted nearly 3-1/2 hours. After the first 2 hours or so, we worked our way up through the trees almost to the north side of the stage by the time the program ended, just to get a feel for that portion of the crowd that was in the shade and couldn’t be seen in the aerial photos. The sound system was superb, and there were 6 jumbotrons spaced along both sides of the Reflecting Pool, so we never got to a point where we couldn’t see or hear.
Afterwards we visited the Vietnam Memorial to pay respects to two of my best boyhood friends who lost their lives in that conflict. From a distance that black granite wall doesn’t look like much, but standing directly in front of it was a sobering experience. As we walked away, I had to clutch my wife’s hand because the tears streaming down my face made it difficult to see where I was going.
Walking from the Vietnam Memorial down through the park to the WW2 Memorial, I didn’t see so much as a gum wrapper in the grass. All of the trash containers were full, but what didn’t fit in the containers was gathered in plastic bags and stacked against the containers. The 4th photo in the RedState 8/28 wrap-up is an accurate depiction of what we witnessed and quite a contrast from the 100+ tons of trash left strewn across the Mall at the Obama inauguration. It really is a contrast in how different classes of our society show or don’t show respect.
We joined a thousand or so people sitting around the edge of the pool in the middle of the WW2 Memorial, cooling our feet in the water. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a truly impressive structure and a fitting tribute to The Greatest Generation.
After cooling our feet, we walked up to the Washington Monument, and then headed back to the hotel, stopping for a rest and snack in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. I had forgotten what a neat city Washington, D.C. is. My last trip there was in 1989, the year I retired from the Navy, and I spent most of my time up at NSA in Maryland.
Our bus caravan took a different route coming home on Sunday, and the return trip only took a little over 11 hours, arriving in Fort Wayne at around 8:15, but we were so exhausted we went home and went straight to bed.
On my way to pick up our dog at the kennel yesterday morning, I heard a lady from our local bus caravan (3 in our group Thursday night and 5 more on Friday) interviewed on local AM radio. The guy who does the morning drive show asked her what was the main message she took away from the rally, and I think she hit it out of the park. She said that, above anything else, the main theme was that we need to quit dwelling on the scars of America’s past, along with all the victimhood associated with them and begin to concentrate on making the future better by, among other things, not repeating the mistakes of the past. To that I would add that it was also about restoring faith – the kind of faith that inspired a group of extraordinary men to found this country over two centuries ago. That was never more reflected than by the Black Robe Brigade, a group of 240 ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams who occupied a good portion of the stage. At the end, everyone joined in renewing the pledge made by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence:
with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.