Wednesday, March 23, 2016

DC Sojourns - No War! No War!

Hi Bill

In my last letter, I told you about the work-related Computers In Libraries conferences that I attended regularly in Washington DC. I also mentioned what it was like to do some research inside the Library of Congress, and how much Pat and I loved to visit DC. Today I want to visit those old Washington DC memories again focusing on a non-work-related experience.

In March 2003, Pat accompanied me on another trip to the Computers In Libraries Conference in Washington DC. Of course, we stayed at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue again and I spent a few days enjoying a very interesting and enlightening conference. Pat was on her own while I was at the conference, but she was fairly comfortable in that area on Connecticut Avenue. She spent her time in local bookstores and other retail shops, coffee shops and restaurants. I believe I met her for lunch somewhere each day.

On Saturday, March 15th Pat and I decided to visit the National Mall intending to check out some of the museums, galleries and monuments. In addition, we always visited the Vietnam War Memorial to honor the more than 58,000 service men and women who died in that war. It was probably my guilt about drawing a high draft-lottery number and avoiding the draft that made me pay homage at that memorial.

Peace Kite Flying Near the Top of the Washington Monument

We had heard that there might be some anti-war demonstrations taking place on that day, but didn’t really pay much attention to that possibility. However, when we descended into the Metro station at Dupont Circle we were surprised by a larger than expected number of people waiting for the train. When we actually boarded a Metro train we were astonished because it was jammed with people of all sizes, shapes, and ages. Many of them were carrying signs/placards showing anti-war sentiments and wearing t-shirts with anti-war messages. There was even one guy with a “Remember Korea” sign. Everyone seemed to be very jovial, talkative, and friendly. We realized that our visit to the National Mall was going to be a lot more interesting than we had expected.

Some protesters near the Washington Monument

When our train reached the National Mall stop we climbed the stairs and were amazed by a sea of peaceful but very vocal protestors that had already taken control of a large area of the Mall. Although we were not prepared with any protest signs or t-shirts we felt very comfortable swimming in that sea. We allowed ourselves to float through that huge crowd of demonstrators with lots of anti-war placards/signs, songs, balloons and kites (maybe the balloons and kites were contributed by the aging flower children who were trying to relive their youth).


At the time, Pat and I were not supportive of the invasion of Iraq. Therefore, it was easy for us to identify with the demonstrators and we ended up staying on the National Mall with them for most of the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and it was a peaceful demonstration by thousands of outspoken people of all ages, most of whom were passionately opposed to a war in Iraq.


Throughout that strange day of protests, we were reminded of the demonstrations that some of us had participated in while I was attending college at Pitt. Some of those demonstrations were to express concerns about university policies, but some were also addressing the nation-wide passionate wish for bringing our troops home from Vietnam and for addressing racial inequalities and poverty.

The protesters on the National Mall were against another unnecessary war that would put our troops in mortal danger and would likely accomplish very little. At least that is what we thought during those times. They also provided an unusual (and enjoyable) afternoon on the National Mall with balloons, kites, clever signs, songs, dancing and interesting people. It was a fun day for us two tourists from South Dakota. 

BTW: You might remember that President George W. Bush had been threatening an invasion of Iraq (with some of our allied countries) for some time and most people seemed to believe it was coming soon. Sure enough, the invasion began on March 19th and 20th.

Pat with protesters near the Washington Monument

Bill - I wish you could have joined us during some of our visits to DC. I am pretty sure you have been to DC, but it would have been nice to visit it together sometime. Anyway, I plan to write at least one more letter about our visits to our nation’s capital.

Take care,

Sincerely Clark

No comments:

Post a Comment