I had an eventful 4th of July weekend. I had the day off work on Friday and Stephanie didn't have any appointments so we got up bright and early and drove up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I'll have to get some of the pictures she took while we were there but it was an amazing day. We went through the National Soldiers' Cemetery where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, dedicating the cemetery to those who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. It was a pretty amazing place to be. Afterwards we walked along Cemetery Ridge, where Pickett's Charge occurred. And, without having planned so, we were there on the afternoon of July 3rd, the same date and time when the charge occurred.
Gettysburg is a beautiful little town, filled with rolling hills, trees, and wildflowers, if it weren't for the numerous monuments and plaques placed in memory of the events that took place, it might be hard to believe that such a bloody battle occurred there over 3 days in July of 1863.
As we drove home to Richmond, we decided to cut west and go the long, scenic way around so that we could avoid Washington, D.C. traffic. Interstate 81 is a beautiful peace of highway that cuts right through the Shenandoah Valley and it was really nice to drive down it and past the Blue Ridge Mountains. Made me miss the mountains back home. On the way back we decided to stop and get some dinner and ended up in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. While we didn't visit any of the historical parts there, we did have a nice dinner and get to see this peaceful little town that was once the site of Brown's Raid. It was also interesting to learn that Lewis and Clark went to Harpers Ferry to get their weapons before beginning their westward trek.
Now, for the sad part of my Friday. After having driven more than 500 miles I dropped Stephanie off at her house and headed home. I was ready for bed and not even paying attention anymore, I guess, because apparently I coasted downhill on a road in a 35 mph zone and let my car get going a little too fast. A police officer pulled me over and wrote me a ticket. So, now I get to go to traffic court in late August. Fun. Luckily I haven't had any speeding tickets before this so I should be able to get traffic school and not have it count against me. At least, I'm told the Chesterfield County judge is a big fan of traffic school.
Saturday morning I woke up early to go to our ward's pancake breakfast and enjoyed a good meal. Before we all ate, Susie Levin, the bishop's wife, gave a short program talking about the importance of the holiday we were celebrating and the faith of the founding fathers of our nation. It was really quite good. Then, after breakfast a few crazy people (we ended up being a group of 17, I think) decided to drive up to the Metro station just south of Washington, D.C. and ride into the city to watch fireworks and do some tourism beforehand. I've been in Richmond, only a couple of hours from our nation's capitol, for nearly a year now and this was the first time I really went into the city. Crazy. I loved it!
We walked around and saw the White House, got some lunch, went through the American History Museum, then took a hike over to the Jefferson Memorial where we set up place to watch the fireworks. While we waited for the show to start, some of us went and spent some time looking at the Jefferson Memorial and walking over to the FDR Memorial, which is awesome! It was a lot of fun, and the fireflies were out too, so it made it really neat. Finally, it was time for the fireworks to begin. Coming from a small town, I'm not used to big fireworks displays and I should say that D.C. has a pretty impressive show, especially from our viewpoint across the reflecting pool and seeing the Washington Monument. It was amazing.
After all that we had to leave the city. Trying to get 17 of us to stick together as we walked over to the metro station and then all getting on the same train was insane. And the ride back to the Springfield station where we had parked was very crowded, we got to be very comfortable in one another's close proximity. But it was lots of fun and totally worth it.
Watching the grand finale of the firework display, I paused to think of the significance of our celebrating our independence with such an array. They let off so many fireworks, so quickly, that much of the display is muted by the noise and the smoke, and you can see clearly how the fireworks represent the artillery and violent explosions of the war that was fought for our independence. Touring the battlefields and seeing the cannons and positions of the Civil War and reading Lincoln's short dedication to the soldiers
who fought to maintain our nation's unity, caused me to pause and think of how great the sacrifice has been to get us where we're at. I think I've always appreciated the blessings of living here, but I don't know that I've always properly understood the sacrifice that has gone into providing them. One of my favorite books is All Quiet on the Western front by Erich Maria Remarque, which tells the tale of soldiers on the German side of the First World War and their realization of the loss on both sides of that war. Standing in Gettysburg and then driving back to Richmond, capitol of the Confederacy, caused me to pause and to think about the sacrifice of war on both sides of conflict. How fortunate we are for those whose lives have been lost. May we always remember the cost of war.
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