Washington D.C. 2022

Day 1

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” according to an old Chinese proverb. Our journey to Washington, D.C. began with a bus of teenagers shrieking excitedly.

While adolescent voices shrilling louder and louder and louder in a fight for supremacy amidst a growing cacophony isn’t a preferred wakeup call for the chaperones, we must admit, it’s effective. By the time the bus was unloaded at the airport, we were more wired than we would have been after two red eye coffees. And we needed to be.

For about five minutes, the only WNSers with legitimate bookings on the 8AM United Airlines flight to DC were the kids . . . and Jesse. While Mr. Brannan, Ms. Platt, and Ms. Reimann briefly considered letting Jesse wrangle the kids on his own while we hopped on the next available flight, we ultimately decided to solve the ticket issue. It was easy enough, though the extra time it took had the kids worried there wouldn’t be enough time for them to start spending their DC cash allowance!

Next, we checked our luggage, telling the kids to double check that they didn’t have any items in their bags (like rechargeable lithium batteries) that couldn’t go under the plane. Then, we went to security, telling the kids to make sure not to have any liquids with them in their backpacks. . . . 

And yet, inevitably, there were liquids in a bag or two, which is enough of a security threat to cause a real (loooonnngg) hold up at the checkpoint. After all that, we got to our gate, hoped no kid had left a rechargeable lithium battery in their checked luggage, and were told by the kids—who are excellent timekeepers when they want to be—that there was still a little time for them to start spending their money!

Ms. Reimann gave them permission to go ahead and spend their (?) hard earned cash for the next ten minutes, and they obeyed her more closely than at any other point that morning, dutifully going to the gift shops and bookstores to spend, spend, spend! There’s a rumor the Fed will be meeting while we’re in DC to discuss the effect frivolous spending by adolescents is having on inflation. We’ll keep you apprised of their findings.

As the first kids started boarding the plane, a rumor started spreading down the line that there were no TVs! 

“But we looked up the plane online! It said it had entertainment!”

“That’s not fair!”

Technically, there was entertainment onboard, but only if you had a WiFi device to connect to it. What a cruel twist of fate!

After the initial shock, however, the students decided they could pass the time by talking to each other, reading books, or playing cards. It all felt very quaint and 20th century.

Unfortunately, some students were a bit more isolated than others. A handful were sandwiched in middle seats next to two strangers. The chaperones were able to switch things around for the most part. This still left Caleb Y. having to sit next to Ms. Reimann for the whole flight, no doubt having to listen to tales of the track team’s exploits for the better part of five hours. Clare Y. was in a similar position—why is it that the people with last names at the end of the alphabet always draw the shortest straw—but chose to remain seated between two strangers instead of sitting next to Mr. Brannan and having to listen to him drone on about history. Her loss!

After waiting for all the other passengers to deplane, the 45 of us were happy to finally stretch our legs—especially Dom—and stand up. After a not so quick bathroom stop, a few attempts at our count off, we made our way to baggage claim where, luckily all of our bags made it! 

Then, we were off to the hotel. The sides of the roads were filled with some sort of green flora that none of your Southern Californian kiddos seemed familiar with. (Just wait till they experience water falling from the sky later this week!) Upon arriving we were treated to a wonderful buffet with baked chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, tilapia, and salad. Plus, a delightful array of desserts that were not ignored by the kids.

With full stomachs, the kids broke into their Close Up workshop groups to get to know one another and prepare for our first memorial visits:  the Marine Corps War Memorial and the Air Force Memorial. And soon we hopped on the bus again and were on the road.

The Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated in 1954 to all US Marines who have given their lives in combat. The memorial design is one all your students were pretty familiar with, as it’s based on the iconic 1945 Pulitzer Prize photo of triumphant Marines raising a flag over Iwo Jima. The image inspired back when it was first published in newspapers across the country and it still had the same effect on the students. As the sun set peacefully behind the trees, they stared up at the statue in awe and relative silence . . . and then started running around the surrounding green space.

Our final stop of the day would be the Air Force Memorial. The spires of the memorial reach over 400 feet into the sky and look quite impressive overlooking the city at dusk. The spires take on the shape of the contrails in a “bomb burst” manoeuvre, only the fourth contrail isn’t present to symbolize a missing pilot, the reason for the memorial’s construction.

Despite having spent the better part of the year teaching his students to be discerning about the information they choose to believe, Mr. Brannan easily convinced a number of kids that the Air Force Memorial was built for Goose from Top Gun. They probably would have gone to high school thinking this was true, if the lovely Close Up guides didn’t correct his lie. (Mr. Brannan called it a lesson!) 

The Air Force Memorial also overlooks the Pentagon and students were able to see where one of the hijacked planes crashed into it on 9/11. We will visit that memorial later this week. But as the sun disappeared below the horizon, it was finally time to head back to the hotel, debrief, and get to our rooms.

Tomorrow is a packed day. We’re off to more memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, and Ben’s Chili Bowl!

Signing off,

Your tired chaperones.


  • At least half of Sam M’s carry-on bag held a poker set, and he’s invited multiple chaperones to play a late night game
  • Ms Reimann lost a $5 bet to Aylin when there was no in-flight entertainment. Losing money wasn’t the worst part of losing this bet.
  • The vending machine ate Sam M and Dom’s money at the hotel. Sad for them, mildly amusing to us watching the expressions on their face as they realized life can be unfair at times.
  • As we’re sitting around a table, writing this blog, we can’t help but wonder whether the kids are smarter than the alarm clock in the room. Will they be able to figure out how to set an alarm that isn’t on their phone? Stay tuned . . . we’ll let you know tomorrow.