Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An Evacuation

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was a priority during our two-day stop in Washington D.C. We actually slept in that first morning and were worried that we wouldn't get tickets, but we dropped Kellie off at the entrance and drove around the block hoping to find a place to park--we were lucky on both counts--although we accidentally got a tour of Arlington National Cemetery when Brian took a wrong turn back over the Potomac River.

Brian felt strongly that Travis and Abby have an opportunity to visit the museum even though he, Kellie, and I had been there years ago. (Personally, once was enough for me, but it is important that the younger ones really understand that terrifying time in world history.)

The museum has four floors. Visitors start at the top and work their way down. Just as we were finishing up the 3rd floor (which, by the way, is the most horrifying and impactful floor to me) we were told that we had to evacuate the museum. A bag had been left unattended and we had to leave NOW. Abby and cousin Kara were nearby, but Kellie and Travis were elsewhere on the floor. Brian went to search for them and I grabbed the two girls and headed for the stairs.

Everyone outwardly was very calm, although, inside my heart was racing as I grabbed each girls' hand and reassured them that everything would be OK. Uniformed officers ran up the stairs as we quickly descended. Images of the World Trade Center stairwells in 2001 ran through my mind as I searched for the first floor exit door as instructed. There was a bit of confusion as to which door it was, but soon we were all safely reunited outside.
Brian, cousin Kara, Abby, Kellie, Travis
We were told to wait with the employee holding the "3" (since we were on that floor when we were evacuated) and were moved further and further away from the building. Obviously the museum had been through this kind of thing before.
My anxiety turned to curiosity as helicopters swooped, sirens blared, and police swarmed from every corner.

No one knew exactly what was going on or when we would be able to resume our tour (if at all) and not wanting to waste any precious minutes of our time in the Nation's Capital we decided to cross the Mall to the National Museum of American History--my FAVORITE of all the Smithsonians.

Later that afternoon the Holocaust Museum reopened and we were able to pick up where we left off. Travis and Abby found it very disturbing, of course, but at 16 and 13, we thought they could handle it. Abby said there were no words to describe what she saw--just scary, and Travis actually felt physically sick.

The atrocities of the Holocaust are hard for all of us to digest. Yet, if learning about it helps my children internalize the fact that we are ALL God's children no matter our race, color, religion, or sexual orientation, then that knowledge is invaluable. If they can value and respect EVERY human being, then I have done my job.


2busy said...

As awful as it is, it is so important to remember. You know, otherwise history has a way of repeating itself. Did you ever find out about the bag? Did someone just accidentally leave it or was it malicious?

Ginger said...

Oh, how scary!

What an invaluable experience for your kids on all counts. You are such a good mom. Thanks for sharing this.

J. said...

We're about to head into the district soon and revisit the Smithsonians with our littles. They are not quite old enough for the Holocaust museum, but I've been before and each visit shocks me--I will never understand how people could be so inhuman. Unfortunately, I still wonder that at some of the things that happen today. Glad you are safe.

Jess said...

That sounds so scary! I've never been to that museum, but would love to some day. By the way, how did Travis get SO tall?

Jenny said...

I love that the kids got such a great history tour this summer even with a scary evacuation. I am looking forward to doing this when my kids are older, but not as thrilled about reliving the Holocaust museum. I wonder what it's like to work there.

Suzanne said...

We've been to most of the buildings on the Mall, but not that one. Next time we'll have to go. Looks like a beautiful day in DC.

Garden of Egan said...

Wow! That is unbelievable.
What an incredible experience for all of you.
Good for you for you for doing this for your kids.

Marianne said...

Pretty scary experience, but I'm glad it turned out OK and that you were able to finish your tour.

Sounds like a great trip all around!!