This long story began a short two months after the last installment. It was
June 5th, and I was next door watching TV at my grandparents' house. Casually,
my grandfather turned on the news, only to be startled by what lay ahead. The
newscaster announced that former President Reagan had passed away at his
home in California. Reagan was my favorite president, and I was taken aback.
The newscaster also announced that he would lie in state at the Capitol in
Washington D.C. Anxiously, I ran back to my house, my heart beating wildly.
When I entered, I found my dad on the couch and told him the news. He
appeared surprised as well. Later that night, I sat down with my parents and
they asked me if I wanted to go see President Reagan lie in state. Again with the
questions! Of course I want to go! So it was settled. My dad and I would travel
down to D.C. for a day or so to pay our respects. Simple, right?
Complications set in the next day. My dad was playing football when he
broke his arm. I was devastated! I knew that the trip would be cancelled now. It
was all over. Not wanting to crush my hopes, my dad said that he would see how
the week went. Each day, this trip seemed further and further from becoming
reality. Time was being wasted. We weren’t packed. Crowds were huge. Some of
my relatives said that we could be driving to our deaths. And then on June 9th,
to top it all off, a plane flew over the Capitol. The Secret Service evacuated the
entire Capitol, a major setback. It turned out that the plane was not that of a
terrorist, but of the Governor of Kentucky. At this point, my dad came upstairs
and told me that we weren’t going to go. Crushed, I then went to bed near tears,
and didn’t sleep well at all.
The first thing I did the next morning was go on the computer and look up
the governor of Kentucky. His name was Ernie Fletcher, and he became my
least favorite person on the planet. Shortly afterward, I had to leave for school,
and that was the end of the matter for the moment. At 11 o’clock, after a
dreadful morning of schoolwork, it was time for recess. When I went out, I forgot
I had some scissors in my pocket and went to return them to the teacher. When I
reached the room, my teacher said I needed to go down to the office. I rushed
out of the room, and ran down to the main foyer, only to see my dad standing
there. “What are you doing here?!” I asked him nervously. “We’re going to D.C.”
he said! That right there, was probably the most exciting moment in all of my life.
When we reached the car, I saw that he had packed me a day or so’s worth
of clothes. “Do you have any maps of D.C. on you?” he asked me. I opened my
backpack to show him it was completely filled with books on that subject.
The drive to D.C. took over eight hours. It was a very interesting experience
to say the least. Driving halfway down the East Coast, we went through a lot of
radio stations along the way as they would fade when we drove too far from their
sources. This resulted in a lot of dial-turning and my dad driving with his knees
because one was controlling the radio and one was incapacitated. I guess I was
not really in too much danger, but it's still something that cautious nine-year-olds
don't want to go through. At least it adds to the story now.
Around 7:20 p.m. we reached the outskirts of the city. We decided we
needed to deal with a crucial issue before heading to the Capitol: We needed to
locate a hotel! Luckily, my dad had the address of the Courtyard Marriott we
stayed at the previous year. By pure chance, they had several vacancies.
We quickly booked ourselves a room to stash the luggage in and took a taxi to
our destination. Upon exiting our cab, we took a spot in the gigantic line of
people that were there for the same purpose as we. I had anticipated it would
take us around an hour to reach President Reagan’s coffin, the way the line was
going. Little did I suspect that the two of us would be waiting in that line for five
long hours. The line was moving at a fairly decent pace, buy my judgement
was all wrong. The closer we got, the easier it was to see that the line was twelve
times longer than I originally assumed. Conveniently, that night was insanely
humid and everyone was sweating non stop. When the line passed by Garfield
Circle, we noted the hundreds of dead cicadas lining the street. Cicadas are one
of the world’s most repulsive insects, and they don’t seem any more inviting
dead than alive. Luckily, we had to put up with the cicadas for about only ten
After being thoroughly checked by security, we finally made our way
through the Capitol’s grand entrance. Not long after, we found ourselves in the
rotunda, and the loud chatter of the crowd suddenly became an awkward
silence. There before us all lay one of the the greatest leaders America had ever
known. As we slowly circled around the casket, I temporarily became distracted
by the majesty of the rotunda itself. Thankfully, I was quickly brought back to
Earth by my dad, who realized that the whole purpose of the trip wasn’t the
center of my attention. Then, in a blink of an eye, we were at the exit. It was all
over. No more heckling, no more dreams crushed, no more setbacks. We had
accomplished our goal. It was past 2:00 a.m.
After taking a cab to a local 7Eleven, we walked up Connecticut Avenue,
passed an eerie green statue of George McClellan, and into our hotel room.
When I reached my bed, despite the adrenaline rush I had, I just flat out
crashed. It had been a long day, filled with many varying emotions, and was one
of the best days of my life.